Halloween strategies: How to keep candy eating under control

HOUSTON – Here in Houston and across the country, kids are at risk for adult diseases.

“We are seeing an increasing rate in childhood type 2 diabetes, which is traditionally thought of as an adult type disease,” Memorial Hermann pediatric dietitian Shelby Hawkins said. “We also see things like high blood pressure and also fatty infiltration of the liver in pediatrics now, which is directly linked to the obesity rate in children.”

She said that on Halloween there should be guidelines: Pick out some trick-or-treat candy and get rid of the rest.

Developing a pattern of bad eating is proven to be linked to lifelong complications, but no one develops health problems from one holiday or one meal. Hawkins said to use Halloween as a way of teaching your kids how to eat in moderation.

“You know, tonight you can pick out 15 or 10 pieces of your favorite candy from what you get in your bag and then the rest, there's organizations where you can donate candy to troops, there's organizations where like dentist's offices and doctor's offices will actually buy back candy,” Hawkins said on limiting pieces.

She suggested giving kids the options which to choose and spreading them out throughout the week.

Paying attention to size when choosing which pieces to keep is important. Hawkins said parents should know “bite size” candies are actually a good gauge on portions.

“This is a pretty good portion size for a little kid,” she said.

Hawkins works with patients who have allergies, feeding tubes and other disorders, so she knows how common it is for some kids to not get any treats on Halloween.

“I have a lot of tube fed children that aren't able to eat by mouth and they still love to go trick-or-treating obviously, it's fun for them to get out, but they aren't able to eat food by mouth so they don't get any treats,” Hawkins said. “It's nice to have the stuff for them so they don't feel excluded and they're still able to go trick or treating with their family and friends and not feel like ‘oh man like I don't get anything when I go to the door.’”

Parents also get tricked on this holiday too. Many don’t know how many pieces of candy are acceptable in one sitting. The terms “fun size” and “bite size” can be misleading. Hawkins said two to three pieces at once is the limit.