According to the National Retail Association, the average consumer will spend $21 on ghoulish treats on Halloween. That’s about the price of a 150-piece bag of assorted “fun-sized” candy bars.
So how many calories are going out the door when a household distributes 150 fun-sized bars to costumed munchkins? A candy comparison by Cooking Light magazine shows that a fun-size bar can have about 80 calories, so giving away 150 of them is the equivalent of distributing roughly 12,000 calories.
Of course, there are lower-calorie candies amid Halloween loot. Things like Gummy Bears (87 calories for 10), Tootsie Pops (60 calories each) and Atomic Fireballs (60 calories for three).
Now for the brighter side: All the goodies that kids get on this chocolate-drenched, candy-coated holiday can be part of a lesson about moderation and alternatives to overeating low-nutrient (and no-nutrient) treats.
There are plenty of healthy alternatives that can be just as fun at Halloween parties and gatherings.
It may seem like a challenge, but it can be done, according to pediatric dentist Maribel Santos in Lakewood Ranch and Christine Gerbstadt, a registered dietitian in Sarasota.
“Every year we, as parents, find ourselves struggling with this ridiculous amount of candy,” said Santos, who is the mother of two boys, ages 9 and 14.
This is her recommendation: Have children lay out their haul on the floor, bed or table, then divide it into three piles -- best treats, good treats and OK treats.
The best treats are not sugary and include things like stickers. Good treats are items such as chocolates that don’t stick to teeth. OK treats are chewy candies (think caramels and the like) that cling to teeth.
Santos said she calls the sticky candies “OK” treats instead of “bad” because she doesn’t want kids to get the idea they’re forbidden. But she still recommends finding other uses for this type of candy.
For example, save the “OK” treats for the next birthday party and stuff them into a piñata. Or use them in making craft projects.
This time of year, Santos is counseling her young patients about the importance of being extra diligent about brushing their teeth and adhering to teeth-friendly habits.
“Children are going to be children. I never tell my patients not to eat candy,” said Santos.
But she reminds her older patients to watch their daily sugar consumption and make adjustments on the days they eat candy. Santos recommends staying away from colas and sports drinks on those days in order to limit sugar exposure.
For younger children, “You want to make sure children are brushing properly. Parents should supervise brushing and flossing at this time of year,” said Santos.
Her sons already have asked Santos if she will be giving out her usual fare on Halloween to the trick-or-treaters knocking on their door. That would be little bags of pretzels.
Meanwhile, Gerbstadt, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and the mother of an 8-year-old son, recommends that healthy snacks be the norm, even during candy season.
“For a healthy active person of any age, we can afford to eat candy or treats every once in a while. A once-a-year holiday is no big deal,” she said.
But as a professional in the field of nutrition, Gerbstadt is aware of the sharp rise of childhood obesity and the fact that the type of diabetes associated with excess weight, Type 2, is occurring in elementary-school-age children.
Therefore, knowing how to enjoy sweets without overeating can be a valuable skill to learn.
“I think the important thing is that candy is a treat and that’s what kids need to figure out,” Gerbstadt said.
On Halloween night, at least, the appeal of candy can be strong, she has learned.
Two years ago, she ran out of candy on trick-or-treat night and substituted small handfuls of coins. The stash included quarters, nickels and dimes.
Apparently, little goblins felt tricked. “They were downright mad at me … I thought that was just so weird,” said Gerbstadt. “I went into my office the next day and told everyone, and they just said, ‘Well, duh.’ ”
The following year, Gerbstadt decided to do an experiment: Offer kids a choice, candy or reaching into a container for coins. Every one of them chose the candy.
This year, she is giving out mini-sized candy bars.
“If nothing else, I’m teaching about portion control.”
When kids get home and the “thrill of the hunt” has abated, parents can help their children whittle down the hauls. Gerbstadt, whose son isn’t a candy fanatic, gets rid of the sweets stash after about three days.
She recommends that healthy snacks take center stage on most days of the year, especially in months with holidays that are centered on treats.
And Halloween parties don’t have to be candy cornucopias. Gerbstadt loves air-popped popcorn spritzed with olive oil spray, and homemade trail mix that is light on the chocolate chips.
Also, take advantage of the fact that pumpkins are symbols of Halloween. Pumpkin is “real food” and full of vitamin A. The seeds can be roasted, and the interior used in cupcakes and muffins, said Gerbstadt.
Time-pressed cooks can used canned pumpkin, which is equally nutritious.
Easy Pumpkin Muffins
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until smooth. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
-- Source: allrecipes.com
Crunchy Cereal Trail Mix
1/4 cup Cheerios
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons raisins
2 teaspoons semisweet mini chocolate chips
Combine Cheerios, seeds, raisins and chocolate chips in a small bowl.
Makes 1 serving.
-- Source: Eating Well magazine
Black Cat Cut-Out Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Garnishes: black sanding sugar, small candies
2-1/4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
Blend together butter and sugar; stir in egg and vanilla. Add flour; mix until well blended. Shape into ball; cover and chill 4 hours to overnight. Roll out dough1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface; cut out with cat-shaped cookie cutters.
Arrange cookies on lightly greased baking sheets; bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Frost cookies with chocolate frosting when cool; if desired, sprinkle with black sanding sugar and add candy “eyes.” Makes about 2 dozen.
Chocolate frosting: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
-- Source: Gooseberry Patch Kids, Oxmoor House 2011
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds from 1 large pumpkin, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Scatter pumpkin seeds onto a sheet pan in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Bake for about 7 minutes, until light brown and crispy.
-- Source: Food Network
Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be contacted at email@example.com.