Trick or Treating With The Dietitian

October 30th, 2013 by Sara Upson

As a dietitian many people ask me every year what I give out for Halloween.  I get a lot of- “you probably don’t even give out candy.”  However, let me assure you that I, the dietitian/nutritionist, do give out candy and I even eat it too!

I choose to give out candy at Halloween because I do believe that ALL foods can fit into a healthy diet and that includes candy.  Halloween is a special time and candy consumption for most kids is higher on this day, however it’s one day.  One day or even one week of Halloween parties and events spread over several days will not ruin your child’s eating habits (or yours for that matter).   It really is about what you do consistently over time that is important.

Besides, according to my own non-scientific study most kids chose other treats over candy.  I wasn’t surprised, but I think my husband was!  Last year at Halloween we decided to conduct a Trick-or-Treating experiment to see what kids really chose.  We offered a wide variety of selections both candy and candy alternatives alike (those mixed candy bags really do give you a lot to choose from).  Our list of options looked kind of like this:

Candy Candy Alternatives
Mini Candy Bars (Milky Way, Musketeers, KitKat, Twix, Snickers) Pencils
M&Ms Stickers
Candy Corn Chewy Granola Bars
Willy Wonka Candy Mix (Sweet Tarts, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Runts) Play-doh
Teddy Grahms
Pretzels

We had the candy in a really large bowl with both candy and candy alternatives to choose from.  Don’t let the size of the bowl fool you, it’s about 2 feet wide and half a foot deep, which makes room for a lot of candy options.  On a technical note, I’m pretty sure we even mixed up the candy more than what you see in the picture below so that there was greater variety on top.

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As the night progressed what do you think was the first thing we ran out of? It wasn’t a specific candy; it was pencils. Kids preferentially chose the candy alternatives over candy. Mind you I wasn’t out there in my dietitian uniform with a scale scolding over their selections, it’s just what they chose! All of the candy alternatives were the first to go. Following pencils it was stickers, play-doh, granola bars, pretzels and last was teddy grahams. The candy seemed to linger on. There was even one little boy, about 5-6 years old, who very shyly selected some stickers for his treat. My husband, in a generous mood, said- “you can have something else if you like.” We were both thinking he was going to take a piece of candy to have some balance with his selection. Nope, he chose play-doh. We were shocked! This is pretty much how the night went until we ran out of candy alternatives and then, horror (sarcasm), the rest of the kids were forced to choose candy.

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If you are worried about Halloween and the impending candy overload- take a deep breath, relax, enjoy the festivities, and let your child enjoy the festivities too! It really is okay and the candy will not make or break family’s healthy eating patterns. If you would like some additional information on how to enjoy your Halloween treats, you can find it here.

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