Halloween is fast approaching. Kids love Halloween for the costumes, decorations, parties and, of course, the candy. Adults enjoy seeing their precious little ones transformed into their favorite characters and seeing the smiles on their faces. Many parents, however, struggle with how to handle all the candy that surrounds this holiday. It’s not just about how much candy kids receive the night of Halloween–it’s about the parties before Halloween arrives, and about the days and weeks after Halloween when the giant bowl of candy is still there. This can lead to a habit of eating candy every day. 

There have been multiple research studies (from sources such as the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University) that show the addictive nature of sugar. This research shows that sugar stimulates the brain in the same way cocaine does. This is especially concerning for children, since their taste preferences are over 50% solidified by age 5. Once they start craving sugar, it can be hard to get them to stop. Too much sugar for kids leads to short attention spans, problems with memory and sleep, and long-term consequences such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

At some point, “treat” became synonymous with candy. How about providing some fun and tasty alternatives for kids this Halloween? Here are some food and non-food ideas that make great treats for your little goblins this Halloween:
•    Animal crackers, popcorn, pumpkin seeds, trail mix, granola/cereal bars, and yogurt-covered raisins are readily available, packaged for grab-n-go snacking.
•    Toys such as hacky sacks, jump ropes, bouncy balls, sidewalk chalk, playing cards, paint brushes, coloring pages, and bubbles are great, and anything that light ups and flashes is always a favorite.

Some parents choose to let their kids keep all their candy, some put strict limits on their kids’ intake, and most parents are somewhere in-between. As a parent myself, I know how tough these choices can be. On one hand, Halloween comes just once a year. On the other hand, Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. There are many reasons to celebrate and they are unfortunately frequently tied to candy and sweets!

There is no right way to handle the Halloween candy dilemma. However, as parents and caregivers, it’s important to set a good example for our children and teach them the importance of good nutrition and why candy and other sweets should be limited. Candy is readily available everywhere, and since over 80% of shelf-stable food products have added sugar, it is critical to learn to set limits.

So what is the solution? Here are just a few ideas that you might want to consider implementing this Halloween:
•    Put limits on Halloween candy intake. It’s up to you to decide exactly how much Halloween candy to let your kids eat right away, and how much to save for later. 
•    Offer a trade—Halloween candy for an adventure—kid’s choice. Give your kids the option of turning in their candy for one of their favorite activities. Maybe it’s a trip to the movies or a day at the zoo. Let them decide.
•    Buy the candy from them. Or check with your dentist. Some dental offices will buy candy by the pound.  

While you may not want to be known as the house that doesn’t hand out candy, try this experiment. Give the kids a choice of a toy or candy. You might be surprised at the results. And other parents will thank you, too! However you decide to celebrate this Halloween—with candy or without—have fun and be safe. And remember that holidays like Halloween should be about spending time together and making memories. Happy Halloween, everyone!