On Oct. 31, children will dress up in costumes and walk around neighbourhoods asking strangers for candy – it could be the most bizarre tradition, but it isn’t going anywhere.
And that mass consumption of candy has local officials providing tips on how to keep children’s sugar intake down.
“Lots of the foods that we give out at Halloween are often high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats, and all of these things – if we eat too much, can put us at an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Chelsea Brown, a registered dietician with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“The really sticky candies and sugary drinks can lead to cavities as well,” she said.
“One night of overindulgence at Halloween really isn’t going to have a big impact on our health over the long-term, we really want to focus on the habits we have over time.”
Brown said as its ingrained in our culture and traditions to celebrate Halloween with candy, it’s more about moderation and she has some tips in order to implement that.
Create a healthy relationship with food
“Avoid saying things like ‘bad foods, junk foods, unhealthy foods,’ cause this can make kids feel guilt or shame when they’re eating them later on and we don’t want them to develop unhealthy dieting behaviours as they get older,” Brown said.
“If we make foods off-limit or forbidden, we start to crave them more and this happens for kids as well.”
Focus on traditions that don’t involve food
“We have jack-o’-lantern carving, making your own Halloween costumes, going to haunted houses – try to bring those fun things and make them the traditions of Halloween so that candy doesn’t have to be the main event. That can help to lessen the amount of candy we’re eating.”
Provide healthier alternatives
“Make the healthy choice the easier choice not only for your own kids but other kids in the community. It could be while you’re dishing out Halloween candy – try a different non-candy giveaway, it doesn’t always have to be the sweets, chocolates and chips – it can be toys or socks,” she said.
The City of Regina sells Healthy Halloween passes, which are available at leisure centres across the city and provide children with the ability to go in with free admission. They will also be handed out at city buildings on Halloween for trick-or-treaters. More info on those here.
Combine sugar with nutrition
“Have them eat the candies while they’re having a snack or dinner. At least you know they’re getting nutritious food with all of the salt, and sugar, and the rest. It can also help to fill their bellies so they’re not wanting to eat as much candy.
Create structure around consumption
“After that first or second night, start to get some control back and help them to manage that candy stash so they’re not only eating candy for the next week or month. Let them pick a few candies they want to eat that day and have some structure – eat with snacks and meals.”
“That can help them to learn those healthy habits that they need to take with them as they become adults.”