A one-night candy splurge won’t make a child fat, and doctors and nutritionists say everyone can enjoy a little Halloween candy in moderation, regardless of his or her weight.
But experts do suggest turning the night into a teaching moment about portion size and limits, lessons can that can be reinforced all year.
“It’s important that we as parents help them find the balance between that very traditional fun activity and a healthy lifestyle,” says Connie Diekman, past president of the American Dietetic Association.
The government’s food pyramid allows about 10 percent of the day’s calories for most children to come from extras, which includes candy, Miss Diekman says.
“That’s going to allow every child to have some candy on a daily basis, and it really is OK,” she says.
To make that work, it might mean that dessert gets taken out of the lunchbox on Halloween to make room for a nighttime candy splurge.
Telling children they can’t have any candy probably will backfire.
“Some families say no, they don’t allow it, and some families have no restrictions and it’s a free-for-all,” says Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a childhood obesity expert at Duke Children’s Hospital. “Both are equally poor approaches.”
She suggests families offer candy and nonedible treats, to allow children who come to the door to make the choice. Some kids like the alternatives because they have something to play with that lasts beyond Halloween night. For others, candy is still king.
“They’reafter candy,” says April Callis of East Lansing, Mich., of her girls, ages 7, 12 and 14. “They’re not really interested in sunflower seed coupons.”