Parents - Tips for managing Halloween candy

Hillcrest South dietitian Jenny Watkins, RD/LD, joins us on the blog today to talk about a healthy way to approach Halloween and all that candy.

For health-conscious parents, Halloween can be tricky. Do you set limits? Do you let kids decide how much to eat?  There isn't just one right answer. Instead, use your best judgment given what you know about your child's personality and eating habits.

Kids who generally eat just a couple of pieces and save the rest may be trusted to decide how much to eat. But if your child tends to overdo it, consider setting some limits.

Tips for handling the Halloween treats

Before kids go trick-or-treating, try to serve a healthy and filling meal so they're not hungry when the candy starts coming.

Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled afterwards. Candy and snacks shouldn't get in the way of kids eating healthy meals.

Encourage your kids to be mindful of the amount of candy and snacks eaten and to stop before they feel full or sick.

If you're concerned about the overload of candy, consider buying back some or all of the remaining Halloween candy. This acknowledges the candy belongs to the child and provides a treat in the form of a little spending money. You could let them trade in their Halloween candy for something they have been wanting, like a video game, book, toy, trip to the movies, etc. or for a different treat.

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 many kids.

Parents of young children should also remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies and small toys.

Educate your trick-or-treaters to not accept, and especially, not to eat anything that isn't commercially wrapped.

Try to apportion treats for the days following Halloween. Try pairing a piece or two with the meal so they come to know that is part of the meal, but is not a replacement of the meal. When boundaries are set and discussed, your kids will understand the purpose of candy, and will less likely to hoard the candy, or overeat it when you're not around.

Kids learn good habits from their parents, be a role model by eating Halloween candy in moderation yourself. To help avoid temptation, buy your candy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.

When to throw away

• An unusual appearance or discoloration

• Tiny pinholes or tears in wrappers

• Spoiled or unwrapped items

• Homemade items or baked goods should be discarded unless you personally know who gave them.

When in doubt, throw it out.

Candy alternatives

You may want to offer allergy-free candies to your trick-or-treaters. Some allergies can include, but are not limited to wheat, dairy or peanut. If you're offering allergy-free candy, you can place a teal blue pumpkin on your porch, and that lets the parents of trick-or-treaters know that you have allergy-free options available.

When purchasing your candy, you can look at the nutrition label, or it may be advertised as peanut free on the package.

Some candy alternatives include party favors or trading cards, non-food treats, like stickers, pencils, toys, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, small boxes of raisins, healthy popcorn, or individually packaged healthy treats like nuts, small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum, trail mix, raisins, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, cashews, whole grain crackers, little bags of microwave popcorn or small boxes of cereal.

More tips

Consider skipping the Halloween candy sale on Nov. 1. Cheap bags of candy may seem like a good buy, but you don't need the extra sugar and calories.

Children with diabetes, for instance, may have to follow strict guidelines as to how much candy they may have. If your child has a health condition, talk to your doctor and/or dietitian for guidance on how to handle Halloween treats for your child.