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Home > News & Advisories > Features > Features Archive > 2009 Features > Keep ‘Handy Candy’ away from little gobblin’ goblins

Keep ‘Handy Candy’ away from little gobblin’ goblins

October 30, 2009

AHS Communications

On Halloween night, Jennifer Doyle lets her three kids be kids.

With two sons, ages seven and four, and a two-year-old daughter all out trick-or-treating in southern Alberta, the mountain of candy they bring home is immense.

Doyle and her husband sift through the goodies when the kids get home and toss out any inappropriate or suspicious-looking items before their kids can indulge but, after that, the candy is fair game. But only for one night.

“The first night, they’re allowed to have whatever they like,” says Doyle. “But the next day, it becomes more governed.”

Doyle and her husband take all the candy away after the costumes come off and put it in a box that’s kept hidden in the kitchen. Candy is then issued as a treat, usually for dessert for a few days after Halloween. What’s left over by Remembrance Day usually goes to work with Doyle’s husband to share with his colleagues.

Alberta Health Services registered dietitian Sandra Christiansen agrees with many of Doyle’s strategies.

“We suggest parents use their best judgment in deciding how much candy their kids should eat,” says the Edmonton-based Christiansen. “We also advise that parents know how much candy is collected and to store it out of sight.”

‘Handy Candy’ -- as Christiansen calls treats stored in plain view or even in children’s bedrooms -- is just too tempting.

Having Halloween candy instead of dessert, or eating it along with a healthy snack, in the days following the big, scary night is another idea, Christiansen says.

“Ration the candy over several days or weeks,” she says. “Candy shouldn’t get in the way of healthy eating. At Halloween, parents have the chance to be role models and eat the treats in moderation themselves.”

Sylvia Baran, a dental hygienist for Alberta Health Services in Red Deer, suggests parents only allow their children to eat their Halloween candy after meals.

Baran says the more often teeth are exposed to sugary foods, natural sugars included, the greater the risk of developing tooth decay.

Sugars react with the bacteria found in your mouth and turns the mouth environment acidic which then erodes the minerals in your teeth.

“A child who is allowed to eat a little bit of candy 10 times during the day will have a much higher risk of developing tooth decay than a child who only eats candy for dessert after supper,” says Baran.

She also says parents should consider what other foods their kids are consuming, including drinks and potato chips. Drinks are worse in some regards than candy as kids sip on them over a long period of time, increasing the acid exposure in their mouths. Potato chips are high in starch, which are broken down into sugars and then cause acid to form.

“The two big things we talk to parents about are how often they let their kids eat candy and what type of candy or food product their kids are eating,” says Baran. “Hard candy and sticky candy are both bad because they stay in the mouth for a long time.”

Baran also says parents should caution against sending candy to school, where their kids are less likely to brush and floss after eating.

“Parents should ask themselves: ‘Can my child get access to a toothbrush, or even a glass of water, to help wash away a sticky product?’” Baran says. “Parents should leave the candy at home and only distribute at meal times.”

One way to deal with leftover candy is to freeze it then chop it up and use it to top ice cream for a special treat or mix it into cake, muffin or pie recipes. In the end, after the Halloween season is over, perhaps your trash is the best place for leftover candy.

Halloween doesn’t have to be about candy, either says Christiansen. She suggests handing out small bags of pretzels, flavoured rice cakes or popcorn, single-serving boxes of low-sugar cereal, small boxes of raisins or 100 per cent fruit leathers, fruit or applesauce cups, pudding cups, individual packages of hot chocolate.

“You could also offer non-food treats like crayons, stickers, fun erasers or bubbles,” says Christiansen.

No matter what you’re passing out, just give a small amount rather than a handful.

“You and your children can enjoy Halloween treats in moderation,” says Christiansen.

“Choose carefully what to indulge upon. Take one or two smaller pieces instead of a large candy bar, for instance. And remember to continue to follow healthy eating and physical activity habits during the holiday season.”