Trick-or-treat, give me something sweet to eat! Pretty soon, your kids will be diving into big bags of candy. But as fun as the frights of Halloween are for kids, it’s probably even scarier for adults who are conscious of sugar intake.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently tightened up their recommendations for daily added sugar intake from 10 percent to 5 percent of your daily calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, this translates to no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (two tablespoons of sugar or 100 calories’ worth).
“While this does not include natural sugar from fruit, veggies, and milk products, these recommendations still don’t give you much to work with,” says Lisa Moskovitz, founder of New York Nutrition Group.
You don’t need to follow the guidelines exactly, especially in the few days around Halloween — but you do need to be calorie- and nutrient-conscious to keep kids from bouncing off the walls. Here are some general rules to keep in mind when you’re dealing with that holiday candy overload.
Are you looking for something festively fun but not overloaded with calories or sugar? Try these spooky-yet-healthy Halloween treats — kids and adults alike will love them!
Remember what’s ideal
Whether kids or adults, Moskovitz has a rule of thumb. “The average fun-sized candy bar or box has about 75 calories and 8 to 10 grams of sugar,” she says. “Try to allow 100 to 150 discretionary calories per day, which can be devoted entirely to that Halloween candy fetish if you want it to.”
Some candies are more calories than others, so that’s probably going to fall in the one-to-three pieces range.
Set limits, but don’t deprive
Now that you know what’s ideal, don’t deny your kids the craving. If they really, really want that candy, set limits without deprivation. “The bigger deal you make out of it, the more they’ll want it,” says Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet.
“Candy should be kept in the kitchen, not in bedrooms, so the temptation isn’t there.” She also encourages parents to keep candy to one piece as an after-dinner dessert, and to encourage them to drink a glass of calcium-rich milk with that chocolatey, gooey stuff to help it go down easier — and help mom feel better.
Don’t forget hidden sugars
While you (or your kids) can definitely have a piece of candy or two (or maybe three) a day, don’t forget added sugars are in everything from your daily flavored latte to that granola bar you ate between breakfast and lunch, too.
“If you use your discretionary or added sugar intake on candy, make sure to avoid eating sugary foods the rest of your day in the form of beverages, or other snack-y foods,” says Moskovitz. Choose healthier options, like tea or fruit, when you’d normally consume added sugars.
Choose calorie-conscious options
If you’re watching calories, or you know your kids will nosh, choose traditional Halloween candies that contain 50 calories or less.
Moskovitz says these include six Hershey’s® Kisses, a dark or milk-chocolate fun-size Hershey’s® chocolate bar, 10 jelly beans, a fun-size box of Mike & Ikes® or Milk Duds®, one fun-sized Reese’s® peanut butter cup, two Starbursts®, one small bag of Swedish Fish®, or one fun-sized York Peppermint Patty™. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you go with any of the above.
Choose options with some nutritional value
Try buying up, handing out, and encouraging sweet options with some sort of nutrient packed in, says Gans. “I like popcorn, like Cracker Jack® or caramel corn, because you have some whole grains there,” she explains.
“Anything with a nut is a good choice, too — think Almond Joy® and almond or peanut M&Ms®.” You could also do Reese’s® for that nut butter and a modestly healthy fat, a KIND® bar instead of a candy bar for protein and fiber, or a small pack of raisins for a more middle-ground, fiber-filled option.
“Parents, older siblings, friends, even the mailman,” says Gans. “With all that candy, Halloween is a good time to encourage your kids to share. You’ll get rid of it quicker, and it’s a learning opportunity.” If you want it to go even faster, try making trades with your littler ones: A dollar store toy for several pieces of the sweet stuff, for instance.
At the end of the day, one of Gans’ biggest messages about smart eating is “not to demonize” any single item or food group — even candy. Let your kids enjoy while keeping a watchful eye over their consumption, and let “everything in moderation” be your mantra while those Halloween treats slowly dwindle away.