Living Well: Tips for ensuring your kids have a healthy Halloween
A Q&A with Madysen Jourgensen, registered dietitian at Memorial Regional Health.
What are some healthier alternatives to candy?
MJ: Things like popcorn bags, fruit leathers (made from 100 percent fruit), animal crackers, pretzels, etc. can be more nutritious substitutions for candy at Halloween. You can also always try non-food items for trick-or-treaters. Things like temporary tattoos can be alternatives that children are excited about.
How can you make sure your kids don’t eat all their candy in one sitting? Why is this important?
MJ: These sugary foods tend to suppress our appetites, so when we are filling up quickly on candy and sweets, we are limiting the space in our bellies for more nutritious foods.
You can always pre-portion out a small amount of the candy and then stash the rest of it away until the smaller amount is gone, or after a couple of days. This will at least limit the amount of candy that is readily available and visible to the kids. After the holiday, you can also allow children to have a certain amount of candy each day — don’t necessarily restrict the food per se, but more so just set some boundaries.
What are some health detriments of candy and other foods associated with this holiday?
MJ: Candy is just not a nutrient-dense food. As health professionals, we refer to these types of foods as “empty calories” — basically, all it provides is calories and excess sugar. Dental cavities, or tooth decay, can be a consequence of excess sugar intake, as well as overall poor dental hygiene. Excess calories and sugar can contribute to childhood obesity.
Remember, though, that just because your child eats in excess one day does not mean that they are automatically going to gain excess weight. If it is not habitual, then it shouldn’t be a major issue. Excess sugar intake (if habitual) can impair your child’s sensitivity to insulin, therefore increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.
As Memorial Regional Health’s registered dietitian, Madysen Jourgensen offers nutritional counseling for anyone in the community on an outpatient basis. She counsels clients on a variety of nutrition-related topics, depending on their own individual needs and interests.
To make an appointment or for more information, call 970-826-3182.
What do dietitians recommend for a happy and healthy Halloween?
MJ: I would say that moderation would be the biggest thing when it comes to Halloween. Children love the holiday because they get to dress up in their favorite costumes and, of course, eat lots of candy. Letting them enjoy everything the holiday has to offer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With that being said, as mentioned before, it is best to focus on moderation when it comes to candy consumption.
One more piece of advice: Make sure to throw away any candy that is open or partially unwrapped after the kids get back from trick-or-treating for the night.
Are there any “healthier” candies you might recommend that parents buy for trick-or-treaters?
MJ: In general, candy just isn’t the most nutrient-dense food, but there are some varieties that offer a little more nutrition than others. The following are different candy options that may offer a little bit more nutritional bang for your buck:
- Almond Joys
- Peanut or pretzel M&Ms
- Dark chocolate squares
- Three Musketeers
- Chocolate-covered raisins, almonds, etc.
- Jordan Almonds