You don’t need statistics to tell you that your kids bring home a lot of candy on Halloween, but here are some anyway: A study by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta found that the vast majority of Halloween candy hauls netted at least 50 pieces, with 44 percent exceeding 100 pieces. Because CHoA really hates fun, they went ahead calculated some nutritional stats from 60 random pieces of candy: 4,800 calories, containing 1.5 cups of fat and 200 packets of sugar. Just reading that might make your teeth hurt, but it actually does the opposite for your kids – research suggests that sugar acts as a natural pain reliever in children, which is why they happily tolerate concentrations of the stuff that make adults wince.
So don’t bother trying to derail the Sugar Express that’s bearing down on your home this week. We talked to Men’s Health Editor In Chief Bill Phillips, as well as professional dietitians Maryann Jacobsen and Keri Glassman to get some common sense strategies for how you and your kids can survive the Halloween candy deluge.
1. Accept That Which You Can’t Control
“There are maybe 5 days a year when kids should have the freedom to just eat candy, and Halloween is one of them,” says Phillips. He and Jacobsen both agree that pretending you can steer them toward trail mix when all their friends are amassing a year’s supply of mini candy bars is misguided. “Candy on Halloween,” says Jacobsen, “is not as big a deal as we may make of it.”
2. Chocolate And Peanuts > Fake Fruity Stuff
Nothing your kids will bring home is “good” for them, because no one ever takes the apples that your weird neighbor offers every year. Still, chocolate – especially dark chocolate – has antioxidants in it and peanuts have fiber and protein. “It’s the liquid sugar and all the stuff with artificial coloring that they should try and stay away from,” says Glassman. Research says those chemicals contribute to hyperactivity more than just sugar, and Phillips points out that they’re truly empty calories: “A Snickers bar is actually a decent snack. I’m not going to say there’s nothing wrong with it, but on Halloween there’s nothing wrong with it. For reference, check out this nutritional cheat sheet of popular candy bars.
3. Appeal To Your Kid’s Sense Of Logic (Seriously)
When Phillips’ 2 daughters start to tear through the night’s spoils, he only stops them to ask if they really want that next piece. “If you’re going to enjoy it, then indulge,” he says. “But if you’re just doing it because it’s there, save it for tomorrow when you’ll enjoy it more.” Jacobsen suggests getting your kids to acknowledge the kinds of candy they bring home that they don’t actually like that much, and then encouraging them to give those pieces to someone else. “If you give your kids responsibility for taking care of themselves, they don’t always make the worst choice,” says Phillips.
4. Never Trick Or Treat On An Empty Stomach
Sending your kids into the neighborhood after a decent dinner ensures the night isn’t a total sugar apocalypse. Glassman recommends protein to ensure they’re not hungry and Phillips suggests putting a piece of fruit in their hand on the way out the door. “It gets some fiber in their bodies and takes the edge of their cravings,” he says.
5. Lead By Example
A 2011 study found that, when it comes to stocking your own house for trick-or-treaters,83 percent of parents choose the candy they prefer. Seventy three percent admitted to grazing on said candy during the holiday and just shy of 20 percent admitted to eating the candy their kids bring home. You likely already realize your kids can pro-level mimic your behavior, so maybe throttle back on that bag of Butterfingers.