It's Time for a Healthier Halloween
NASHVILLE – With record numbers of children now overweight or obese, does it make sense for adults to hand out the traditional handfuls of Halloween candy? That’s the question posed by the Tennessee Department of Health, as it suggests some healthier alternatives when costumed characters come calling.
“Too many of us, without thinking, hand out calorie-loaded goodies that do great harm to children,” said TDH Family Health and Wellness Director Michael Warren, MD, MPH. “There are many treats children may appreciate even more than another sugary piece of junk food. Fake teeth, stickers, small toys, pencils and other giveaways can be just as much fun to give and receive as unhealthy candy.”
Parents can control the sugar intake of their trick and treating children by considering some simple strategies:
- Before the door-to-door activities begin, make sure your child has a balanced dinner. With a full tummy, he or she is less likely to want to eat a big portion of the treats before coming home.
- Limit time going to door-to-door so the amount of candy collected is reduced.
- When children come home, inspect treats to make sure they have not been tampered with and then stash them out of reach to be issued one or two at a time in the upcoming days. This will extend the holiday fun and provide an important lesson about not overeating sweets.
- Consider buying back candy from your children – a few pennies a piece – so they can purchase something they want with their own earned money.
- Instead of door-to-door treating, consider hosting a party where food is not the center of activities. That could provide double rewards of a healthier and safer night, away from traffic and well-intentioned candy givers.
Adult Halloween celebrants should also think about themselves and friends. For those who have leftover bags of candy, taking them to work the next day is not doing anyone any favors. Put leftover candy in the freezer out of sight and ration it over time until it’s gone. Tossing it in the trash is also an option. If a decorated cake shows up in the office, limit your tasting to about three small bites and then walk away.
Parents planning to take children trick or treating door-to-door should make safety a priority. A few tips to help prevent accidents:
- Add reflective tape to costumes and bags to make children more visible at night and remember to use a flashlight.
- Make sure costumes and wigs are marked “flame resistant” before you purchase them and consider non-toxic makeup instead of a mask that can block eyesight.
- Decorative contact lenses obtained without a prescription are illegal. They can cause pain and serious eye problems. Don’t use them without an eye examination and a prescription from your eye care professional.
- Teach your children how to call 9-1-1 if they become lost or have an emergency. Never let children go unescorted, no matter how safe you think a neighborhood may be.
Find more tips for a safe and healthy Halloween at www.cdc.gov/Features/halloweenhealth/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.