The history of Halloween candy dates back to the 1970s. While treats were handed out some 30 years prior to that, it wasn’t always a strict candy regimen. Traditional Halloween snacks included baked goods, fruits and nuts. In fact, many spoils of early trick-or-treating weren’t even edible—some households handed out an assortment of toys and even money. But as the thought of sharing homemade goods became troubling for many, creating the frightful possibility of poisonous or tainted treats, the candy industry began advertising candy—and lots of it.
Since then, American kids count on more treats than tricks every October 31. If you’re a little goblin or ghoul roaming the streets for treats, that’s a great thing. But if you’re a parent or caregiver, your child’s sugar consumption can be concerning. Here are the health risks of candy and tips on how to add a healthier spin on the holiday.
Leave the candy corn at the curb.
Did you know candy corn contains potentially carcinogenic food dyes Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6—how’s that for scary? In fact, besides the several sweeteners used to make candy corn (which is said to be more than a dozen), this treat is basically entirely composed of lab-made chemicals. We’re not saying candy corn is harmful, but the effects of large amounts over time aren’t positive. At the very least, keep in mind that candy corn doesn’t have any nutritional value and you should limit consumption.
Consider exchanging the kids’ candy stash.
Many communities offer a candy exchange where children can bring their hard-earned candy and exchange it for other items, including cash. Many places offering candy buybacks are dentist offices – check your local dentistry to see if they’re offering a buyback of its own. Some areas also plan drives to package up excess candy and ship it to our troops overseas. Check your local listings for candy exchange programs near you. If your community doesn’t offer any opportunities to cash in the candy stash, this buyback plan is available online. Some local restaurants and smoothie bars offer free healthier options in place of candy. Dress up and make it a family outing for smoothies!
Turn your candy route into a workout.
If there’s one good thing about trick-or-treating, it’s the workout. The activity happens primarily on foot and, depending on how many miles of sidewalk and streets you and the kids cover, you can all burn some calories in the process. Try steering clear of the shortcuts and enjoy taking the “long way” around the neighborhood in your quest for candy. Maybe even make note of your trick-or-treat route and turn it into a once-a-week exercise challenge for the family. After all, you don’t need a bag of candy to enjoy a brisk fall walk around town.
Overall, remember that some treats are fine in moderation. Plan a healthy fall meal before you head out for a night of tricks and treats, and follow up with plenty of water, fruits and veggie servings the rest of the week.
Safety for the whole family should also be top of mind. From costumes to traffic, Safe Kids Worldwide offers a variety of helpful tips. Remember to check your local news outlets and social networks for participating trick-or-treat times and locations. Many communities offer a costume parading experience or parking lot “trunk-or-treat” festivals that keep kids out of high-traffic areas.
Although the sugar intake can seem rough in the days following Halloween night, remember it only happens once a year. Just be sure to have the little ones brush their teeth before bed.