WashU Expert: Tricks for enjoying Halloween treats​

Leading nutritionist advises parents to control sugar intake without 'demonizing' sweets

A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup boasts a whopping 11 grams of sugar. So does a fun-size portion of Skittles. And candy corn? Nineteen pieces packs 28 grams. That is seven teaspoons of sugar.

​“Halloween candy can be a temptation for kids small and big, but it’s important to consider the sugar,” said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis and a leading national food expert.
The trick is to indulge treats wisely. Here, Diekman offers parents five tips for a healthy Halloween season:

  • Divide Halloween candy into portions. This prevents Halloween-night binging and gives your child plenty of treats to look forward to.
  • Remind your child that candy is not a substitute for other foods. Children who consume more of their calories from added sugars not only are setting unhealthy eating habits, they also may be forgoing nutrients that are essential to growth.
  • Avoid demonizing candy. Food that is deemed off limits can become “forbidden fruit.”
  • Help children identify candies they don’t prefer. Ask if mom and dad can take those sweets to work to share with others.
  • Do the math. Dietary guidelines acknowledge that sugars can be a part of our eating plans, but they should comprise no more than 10 percent of our calories. That means about 120 calories for a 5-year-old child, or 260 calories for a 19-year-old male.

Beyond extra pounds, sugar puts us at higher risk of heart disease and some cancers, Diekman said.

“Developing a sweet tooth as a child can lead to bigger problems later in life,” Diekman said. “It’s important for parents to remember that too much added sugar is just as unhealthful as too many calories.

“Providing your children a balanced diet is key.”