The nutritionists’ case for not setting limits on Halloween candy

Knowing how to curb monstrous appetites without being the party pooper can be tricky

For a lot candy-crazed kids, Halloween is synonymous with sugar, and that makes it one of the scariest times of the year for parents fearful of encouraging bad eating habits.

Knowing how to curb monstrous appetites without being the party pooper can be tricky, and advice can vary over when and how to pick your battle over high-calorie sweets.

ALSO READ: How to have an eek-o-friendly Halloween: buy bulk candy and get creative

Is there such a thing as “good candy”? Does a spike in sugar intake really make kids hyper? Does limiting the candy they eat give kids a complex about food?

The right approach to keeping kids from overdoing it requires advance planning and basic ground rules, many experts say, with several warning that coming down too hard could end up making sweets more desirable.

Here’s a look at what some dietary, dental and health experts say on navigating junk food pitfalls.

The ‘no limits’ argument

Your kid may want to overdo it on Halloween night but Ontario dietitians Chelsea Cross and Andrea D’Ambrosio are each emphatic that parents should not limit candy consumption.

Cross, who specializes in weight loss and digestive health in Guelph, Ont., says to instead focus on promoting healthy eating habits so children learn to moderate intake year-round. What you don’t want, she says, is for kids to believe some foods are “bad” or “good.”

D’Ambrosio warns that “negativity” and “fear mongering” increases desire for the very food you’re trying to restrict, and that’s why she has a “liberal candy stance” outlined in a blog post titled: “Why parents must stop restricting Halloween candy.”

“When parents encourage children to listen to their bodies, the child discovers how much they need to eat,” says Kitchener, Ont.-based D’Ambrosio of Dietetic Directions. “Conversely, when parents dictate how much the child ‘should’ eat, we slowly erode the intuitive eating skill.”

Of course, not all experts agree with such loose rules. Vancouver dietitian Ali Chernoff says kids should be limited to one candy on Halloween and ensuing days to instill moderation.

Avoid gorging Halloween night by filling tummies with a balanced meal or healthy snacks beforehand, adds Cross, and redirect kids who are fixated on candies to other festive activities like spooky stories or songs.

‘Healthier’ candy, sort of

Chernoff notes pretty much all candy is packed with sugar and there’s little nutritional difference between the commercially popular brands.

“I would love to give out apples,” Chernoff chuckles.

When it comes to candy options, natural licorice is lower in calories and has no fat, she says. Meanwhile, a growing number of brands like stevia-sweetened SmartSweets gummies are low in sugar and high in fibre, she says.

Chernoff recalls how her mother — a dental hygienist — used to give out toothbrushes on Halloween night to avoid cavities. Sticky gummies and chews, and sweets that sit on teeth like lollipops and juice, are among the worst for teeth, she says.

Cross says nutrient-dense sweets, like energy bites and granola bars, are the better options.

But don’t be fooled by those supermarket gummies that tout ingredients including real fruits and vegetables. Cross calls those products “a gimmick.”

“It could be from real fruit but it’s still just a fast sugar hit, you’re not getting any fibre or any benefits, per se,” says Cross, whose MC Dietetics has offices in Mississauga and Guelph, Ont.

The sugar myth

Despite long-held notions to the contrary, Chernoff says there’s no actual proof behind the belief that sugar turns little kids into over-active monsters.

The founder of Nutrition At Its Best dismisses it entirely as “a myth.”

“There is no scientific evidence showing that sugar makes you hyper,” she says.

“Your energy is really coming from fruits and vegetables and grains. That’s the gas to your car, that’s what fuels us and gives us actual energy.”

Kids are generally nuts for all the associated activities of Halloween, adds Cross, who suspects many are just as hyped up on dressing up and night-time exploration as the candy itself.

The aftermath

In the days that follow, the Canadian Dental Association recommends only eating treats with a meal, and modelling good behaviour with your children by eating one yourself and talking about what you like about the candy you chose.

They also advise drinking a glass of water after eating a sugary treat to help wash away some of the sugars and acids.

Post-Halloween parents should be in charge of the snack haul, not the kids, adds Cross. She suggests putting the stash in a hard-to-reach location and just not offering it as the days pass.

Allow one treat a day for the first week or so after Halloween, and then work on tapering kids off of their stash, she says.

And don’t deny them if they ask for a candy, she adds. Eventually, she says most kids will return to their regular routine.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reconciliation requires that all parties have a voice

Pipeline protests by the hereditary chiefs and their supporters have legitimacy, says letter writer

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship in Nanaimo

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Nanaimo drag queen Rick Meyers receives Victoria drag group’s highest honour

Queen City Sisterhood to bestow ‘sainthood’ upon ‘the divine’ Vicki Smudge

Qualicum Beach approves Pheasant Glen zoning amendment

Majority of residents who spoke at public hearing endorsed proposed amendment bylaw

Make your house a home at Nanaimo spring home expo

Building renovation and decor show taking place at Beban Park till Feb. 23

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down Vancouver island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

BC Senior Curling titles to be decided in Vernon

Wes Craig, Penny Shantz looking for fifth championships; Steve Wright, Donna Mychaluk into finals

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Council approves two retail cannabis stores for Ladysmith

Their applications are now in the hands of the provincial government

Most Read