12 ways to handle the trick or treat sugar rush

Photo: istockphoto.com/Quavondo Nguyen
Tame the candy beast!

For kids, Halloween is all about the candy but as a parent how do you offset the spooky effects of sugar?

Childhood obesity is a huge problem in North America. A contributing factor is high-fructose corn syrup, the number one ingredient in most candy. Our bodies absorb this sweetener differently, treating it more like a fat and that can lead to weight gain. Fructose also creates acid that eats away at enamel and gums, creating the perfect environment for cavities. So while kids love candy, it's a nightmare for parents.

Veteran parents along with the experts have compiled a 12 step guide for surviving the Halloween sugar rush:

  • Don’t buy your candy too early since this will tempt everyone to start gorging before the holiday. Save the candy for the actual holiday. Several days before Halloween cut out all excess sugar to balance out all those trick or treat calories about to be consumed.
  • Make sure your kids eat a healthy dinner with lots of protein before they head out. If they’re not hungry they are less likely to gorge on candy.
  • Try creating a Green Halloween. This organization in Seattle works with communities and families to create an earth-friendly Halloween where everyone hands out small gifts or healthy treats like nuts, raisins, chips and natural candies.
  • Give small gifts instead of candy. Pencils, stickers, party favours, temporary tattoos and trading cards are popular substitutes to fructose-laden candy.
  • Go for the mini candy, bite size pieces are better than full size. Give candy that takes time to eat -- lollipops or hard candy are good choices. Sugarless gum is also a great alternative. Check at your local health food store for fructose-free candy and snacks.
  • Make your kids walk everywhere to trick or treat. This will burn off excess energy and calories. Make a rule they must do some kind of exercise before consuming Halloween candy.
  • Take charge of the candy after trick or treating is finished. Don’t let your child keep their stash in their bedroom where you can’t control how much they are eating.
  • Sort through the candy and keep only the favourites. Separate the sticky or chewy candies like gummy bears and caramels. These do the most damage to teeth so steer your kids away from these.
  • Moderation vs. binging. Some parents let their kids have a blow out binge for one night only, hoping this will encourage self regulation. Others allow a certain number of candies to be eaten. It depends on your child. The secret is not to have your child feeling deprived because that leads to battles.
  • Give your kids sometime to enjoy their Halloween candy. Place one or two treats in a paper bag and let your child pick out one bag each day to bring to school. When you’ve reached your saturation point, bring the rest into the office, give it away to a homeless shelter or compost it.
  • If you decided to keep the extra treats, put them away in a cabinet that is out of reach. Out of sight out of mind is a good way to control candy consumption.
  • Set up a candy trade. Give your kids extra points for each piece of candy they collect and use these pumpkin points to buy a toy or do a special activity.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!