With Halloween approaching and childhood obesity a growing national concern, both American Specialty Health Inc.and KidsHealth are offering tips on how parents can help their children enjoy treat or treating without overindulging:
(1) Serve a healthy meal beforehand so that children aren’t hungry when the candy starts coming in.
(2) Set a good example by giving out healthy alternative foods to neighborhood children: unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds, sugar-free hard candy, sticks of sugar-free gum, pretzels, cereal bars, fig cookies, or juice boxes.
(3) Hand out non-food items: stickers, crayons, pencils, erasers, coloring books, costume jewelry, or coupons to a local yugurt store.
(4) Give children collection bags that fit their sizes. For children under age 5, a small bag makes more sense and will keep children from bringing home more treats then they could healthfully eat in a 30-day period. For older children, a larger bag may be OK, but say no to oversized bags such as pillow cases or plastic trash bags.
(5) Set limits to keep kids from eating too many treats in a day. Allow children two pieces of candy each day, then put the treat stash out of their reach. That way, they’ll have to ask for it. Some treats like chocolate candy bars can be cut into smaller pieces and frozen, providing bite-sized treats later in the year.
(6) Know how much candy your child has collected and store it somewhere other than the child’s room. Having it so handy can be an irresistible temptation for children.
(7) Pair treats with healthy snacks. Require your child to pair every sweet treat with a healthy snack – such as a miniature candy bar and an apple. Make sure they eat the apple first. That way, they are less hungry for the treats; they get health benefits from the fruit and they learn healthier eating habits.
(8) Arrange a buyout. Offer the child a nickel or dime for each candy they will “sell” you. That way they can “earn” money to buy a toy or game they want.
-Jim Killackey, medical writer.