Tips for Halloween Candy Fun with Fewer Calories, Thanks to Packard Children’s Weight Control Expert

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With Halloween spookily approaching, dealing with the annual tidal wave of sugar can be a real challenge for parents. While everyone wants kids to enjoy the day, the candy cargo seems to be getting bigger every year, with parties at school and friends’ houses increasing the loot. That’s why we sat down to get some healthy Halloween tips from Thea Runyan, MPH, at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Runyan is the lead behavior coach for the Pediatric Weight Control Program, part of the hospital’s multidisciplinary Center for Healthy Weight.

“Regardless of whether a child has a weight issue, it’s vital that he or she learn moderation and the skill of making healthy choices,” Runyan says. “Research shows that kids don’t simply ‘outgrow’ the urge to eat unhealthily if they don’t possess the tools to do so.”

Here are a few of Runyan’s healthy Halloween strategies:

  •   *One increasingly popular approach is telling kids—especially younger kids—about the “Switch Witch” or the “Halloween Ghost.” The kids put their loot on the doorstep, and this figure takes it that night, replacing it with something fun, but not candy. (Note: Parents must resist eating it, too!)
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  •   *Some older kids enjoy trading their candy for cash. Some dentists will buy back kids’ candy. Some schools even set up programs where kids can donate the candy to US troops.
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  •   *Some parents hand out fun, non-candy items: spider rings, pretzels, stickers, and tattoos, for instance. Get creative. For Halloween parties, make “fingers” out of string cheese.
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  •   *Don’t buy your candy until a day or two before you hand it out. Otherwise, it’s too tempting to eat it beforehand. Or, buy candy you or your children don’t like. Hate dark chocolate? Make that the treat you give out.
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  •   *Emphasize the fun of trick-or-treating, rather than the subsequent feast. And when the trick-or-treating is over, have the kids pick out their favorite 20 pieces to keep. To many parents’ surprise, Runyan says, kids are often perfectly satisfied keeping just 20 pieces.
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Click to find out more about Packard Children’s Center for Healthy Weight and Pediatric Weight Control Program.