Keeping the 'Treat' in Trick-or-Treating
Halloween is an exciting time for many children—from toddlers to teens. Dressing up as a cherished character, a creepy creature, or a pretty princess and going trick-or-treating is a staple of the fall season. But what do you do when your child comes home with pounds of sweets? On one hand, you want your kids to enjoy the holiday to its fullest. On the other hand, you want to stress the importance of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Stephen Cook, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital, offers advice on preventing the post-Halloween candy craze while still enjoying the festivities. Turns out there are many ways to tackle it, depending on your parenting style.
- Reach an agreement. Set a plan with your child prior to trick-or-treating.* Maybe you’ll let him or her indulge Halloween night and that is enough, or decide to spread it over time and let them have one to two pieces a day in place of dessert or a sweet treat that’s usually in their lunch.
- Set a time limit. While the door-to-door festivities usually start before dark and end into the night, consider setting a timeframe of how long to be out. In general, the longer kids are out, the greater the amount of candy that comes home. Trick-or-treat for an hour and end the night with friends or siblings playing Halloween-themed games or trading treats.
- The smaller the container, the better. Pillow cases may be easy to grab, but they can become a bottomless pit of empty calories. A jack-o'-lantern basket is the perfect size for a reasonable amount of candy and can double as a fun decoration around the house.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Depending on your child’s age, decide where the candy will be stored for an occasional treat. Treats are less tempting when they’re in a kitchen cabinet rather than a bedroom or on the counter.
Kids usually lose interest in Halloween candy after a week. You can then decide, together, what you’d like to do with it. You may even find a local dentist who is collecting candy for donations or exchanging it for prizes.
One day of indulgence for special occasions, such as holidays, is okay. The next day, it’s time to return to moderation and balance.
Another word of caution: Halloween is the day of the year with the highest rate of kids being hit by cars. Take added precautions to ensure your kids' safety; have them wear bright colors with reflectors and carry a flashlight so they're easily seen by drivers.
*If you have a child with food allergies, talk specifically about the hazards of snacking when out trick-or-treating. Closely monitor all treats for possible allergies prior to eating. Most candy is not properly labeled. When in doubt, throw it out!
Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H., is an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Center for Community Health. He cares for patients of the general pediatric practice at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.