For many kids, the fall season is filled with hopes and dreams of collecting as many sweet treats as possible in the form of candies, chocolate bars, sugary popcorn, caramel apples and more. It’s the perfect storm for forming unhealthy habits that may have long-lasting effects on our kids’ well-being, such as childhood obesity, diabetes and poor dental health.
That’s why we’re here to help parents have a plan of action to curb a season-long sugar rush from that bottomless candy bucket. We’ll help you come up with healthy alternatives to the sugary treats, understand how to ration sweets appropriately, know how to check candy for safety and find candy donation options for a healthier, more wholesome fall season for your children.
Whether your kids will be heading out in costume to collect candy this fall or you’re handing out treats, there are other options besides candy that will make kids just as happy — if not more — with these unique, inexpensive alternatives:
- Bouncy balls
- 100% fruit leather
- Healthy cookies
- Mini soaps
- Natural fruit chips
- Seeds to plant
- Small water bottles
- Trail mix
Carry a bottle of water with you and your kids during trick or treating to drink while walking. This promotes healthy habits and will prevent dehydration.
All Things in Moderation
It may be beyond our control what our friends and neighbors give out as treats, so have a plan for how to ration the sweets your kids do receive. Whether they come home with a bucket full of candy or you choose an alternative to collecting sweets, such as giving them a limited amount yourself, it’s a good idea to spread out how much they eat in one sitting. Have them choose a reasonable amount of favorite candies on trick or treat day, and put away the rest. Some can be kept and others donated.
Teach your kids delayed gratification by allowing them to eat a certain amount, such as two items at a time (depending on size), after their lunch. This way, you can show them that their candy will last longer if they eat it in moderation.
Also, avoid letting them eat sweets in the morning before they eat a good breakfast, or before bed. Always have them brush their teeth twice a day, too, since candy is known to cause cavities. And as much as you can, encourage physical activity to reinforce healthy lifestyle habits. You can even incorporate a longer, brisk walk into your trick or treat outing. Consider adding lunges and jumping jacks as a family challenge… in costume!
As you ration your kids’ candy intake, you may notice that the days turn into weeks with the leftover sweets that are still in your home. Rather than extending their candy consumption indefinitely, there are organizations that will accept your extra candy for a good cause.
First responders and deployed troops will feel cared about when you send them some of your sweets to thank them for working so hard, often far away from their homes.
Call your local chapter to find out rules on bringing your unopened candy for other children and their families to enjoy.
This program, run by Soldiers’ Angels, allows you to send sweets to soldiers, and kids can earn buyback prizes as an incentive for donating their candy.
Along with the inherent health risks of eating too much candy come a few other possible dangers. Being aware of the risks present in an unpredictable world is healthy. It’s best to accompany your children if they go out collecting candy, and then inspect what they receive. Follow these tips:
- Have your children show you all candy before they eat it
- If food allergies are an issue, don’t accept items with peanuts and other common allergens
- Remove any choking hazards for small children, such as hard or small candies, small toys and gum
- Tell your children not to accept anything that isn’t commercially wrapped
- Throw out anything that is unwrapped, homemade or has punctured wrapping
Keeping Kids Healthy and Fit All Year
While many kids consider the fall season prime time for eating sweets, we’re here to keep them healthy all year and beyond.
October is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and our team works to inspire and help your kids maintain a healthy weight. We help kids build confidence with our pediatric weight-management program that focuses on your child’s whole-person health. That means we attend to their body, mind and spirit while teaching them to be healthy and fit for life. Click here for more information.