Celebrate Halloween by eating candy in moderation, say experts
Ontario Dental Association says there are good and not-so-good treats kids can eat
The jack-o'-lanterns are out, the trick-or-treating is over, now kids want to chow down on that big bag of candy they collected Halloween night.
It's a challenge for some kids and parents to do so in moderation and in a healthy manner.
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Parents and caregivers are probably already dealing with the nightmare of rationing snack-size bags of chips and bite-size chocolate bars. They're likely concerned about the damage that sugar does to their children's teeth, too.
In the short-term, kids should go ahead and indulge – just a bit – says Sarah Woodruff, an associate professor of kinesiology specializing in health and wellness and body weight management at the University of Windsor.
"Enjoy Halloween for all that it's worth. Candy is part of the celebration, so enjoy it as it is, of course, in moderation," Woodruff said.
Woodruff estimates the bite-sized chocolate bars contain between 60 and 100 calories per piece. She says the number of pieces of candy a child should be given depends on age.
"I really don't worry about what kids eat at Halloween, since it's part of the celebration," Woodruff said. "I care what they eat the 364 other days of the year."
Woodruff says parents shouldn't use Halloween treats as a reward for good behaviour or good grades because it "just makes the treats more appealing."
She called the haul "a teachable moment" about moderation and sharing or charity.
"Kids can keep half the candy and get rid of the other half," she said. "I've also heard of parents allowing their children to keep only their favourite treats and getting rid of the rest.
"Teach children to enjoy the treats, rather than just stuffing their face full."
Tips from dentists
If kids do eat a bit more candy than usual, the Ontario Dental Association has some tips to make Halloween more fun than frightening when it comes to oral health.
Eating sweets is fine when done in moderation, the association also says.
Keep candy in a sealed container and establish times when your child can have a treat.
Give your child sweets just after having a meal, as the amount of saliva produced at this time will help protect your child's teeth.
Have your child brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day.
If your child doesn't have access to a toothbrush while away from home, give them sugarless gum to help get their saliva flowing.
Alternate candy with some healthy snacks, such as vegetables, fruits, yogurts and cheeses, with Halloween treats.
"As a parent, I always wanted my children to enjoy themselves on Halloween, including eating the candy they got from trick-or-treating," ODA president Dr. Victor Kutcher said in a statement. "Keep in mind that tooth decay does not develop from sugar alone. It comes from poor oral health habits, like not brushing or flossing regularly and letting food sit on teeth for long periods of time."
According to Dr. Kutcher, it also helps to know which treats are good and not-so-good for your teeth when combing through the candy your children bring home.
The good include treats that are sugarless or low in sugar, not hard and easily brushed away after they are eaten. Sugarless gum, sunflower seeds, popcorn or sugarless lollipops are good. Chocolate, a Halloween favourite, dissolves in your mouth instead of getting stuck between your teeth.
Not-so-good treats that remain in the mouth for a long time are the prime culprits behind decay-causing bacteria. Sticky sweets that adhere to teeth, such as caramels, toffees and fruit roll-ups are hard to brush away. Hard candies, such as lollipops and jawbreakers, can also cause chipped teeth and may damage dental work.