Halloween doesn’t have to be gorge-fest to be fun

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Dr. Janet Silverstein, a Gainesville, Fla. pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ nutrition committee, says she doesn’t give out candy, offering fruit or pencils instead; so far her house is unscathed.

When her own children were young, Silverstein would buy their candy for a nickel a piece. She recommends that to her patients’ parents, too _ though not necessarily her other solution _ she used to eat her kids’ candy.

In some places, kids willing to give up their candy can make more than a nickel. About 1,500 dentists across the country have agreed this year to participate in a Halloween candy buyback organized by Operation Gratitude. The California-based group periodically sends care packages to U.S. troops overseas. Some dentists pay kids $1 per pound of Halloween candy; last year, the program brought in 250,000 pounds of candy, said Carolyn Blashek, founder of the Van Nuys, Calif.-based group.

Blashek said troops overseas appreciate it as a token of gratitude, and Halloween candy brings back lots of fond childhood memories. Some have given their candy to Afghan children, she noted. Entering your ZIP code on the group’s website, http://bit.ly/F1iSy will identify participating dentists.

Parents who plan to encourage giving up candy should be sure not to take it right away, says Brian Wansink, a Cornell University food behavior scientist and author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”

That’s because of a psychology principle called “the endowment effect.” It refers to kids feeling a sense of ownership and putting a high value on candy they haul in.

If you let them eat several pieces first, that feeling can fade and they won’t even feel hungry anymore. That’s the time to offer a trade, Wansink said.

He’s tried that trick with his own three daughters, aged 2, 4, and 6, and says “it works like a charm.” His girls eagerly give up the rest of their Halloween candy in exchange for a new trinket or other toy that won’t rot their teeth, he said.

Young kids aren’t really aware of how much they brought home, and when “they sort of count their booty, that’s probably the age where kids shouldn’t be trick or treating anymore,” he said.

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American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: http://www.aapd.org

American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org___

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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