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By Trisha Gedon
STILLWATER, Okla. – Many children across the state who plan to celebrate Halloween already have determined which superhero, princess or television character they plan to be for the night. They’ve also mapped out which neighborhoods they plan to trick-or-treat so they can fill their candy containers to the brim with sticky, sweet treats.


Parents, meanwhile, might be wondering how all that candy will fit into a healthy eating plan, especially when childhood obesity is at an all-time high, said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Extension nutrition specialist.


“Between school parties, town-sponsored activities and trick-or-treating itself, kids will most likely bring home more treats than they could possibly eat,” Hermann said. “Based on the nutrition labels of popular candies, your child could bring home as much as 7,000 calories worth of candy. The key to dealing with this overload of sweets is moderation.”


As a safety precaution, parents also should remind their little ghosts and goblins to not consume anything while trick-or-treating. It is vital for parents to inspect all their candy first.


To help curb your children’s consumption of treats, make sure they have a healthy snack before they leave home. Kids who are not hungry will not be as tempted to eat candy throughout their trick-or-treating adventures.


A potentially positive side to trick-or-treating is that it requires exercise. Encourage your children to walk from house to house, as long as the conditions are safe, instead of driving them. Have your children wear a pedometer or other step-counting device and have a contest to see who takes the most steps.


“Parents may want to consider allowing their children a few days to enjoy the Halloween candy, by letting them pick out one or two items they want once each day,” she said. “If parents don’t want their children eating a lot of candy, offer to let them pick out a few of their favorites, then buy the rest from them. This way the children end up with a few sweet treats along with a little money in their pockets. The rest can be tossed or used for other purposes.”


For example, if your children receive a lot of miniature chocolate bars, consider freezing them and using them in recipes containing chocolate chips for upcoming holiday baking. To extend the Halloween fun, include the children in the baking activities.


“If you prefer not to hand out any candy, consider other alternatives such as sunflower seeds, animal crackers, whole fruit, sugar free hot chocolate packets, small bags of pretzels, trail mix or microwave popcorn,” Hermann said. “Pencils, colorful erasers, trading cards or stickers also make fun alternatives to sweet treats. Just remember that a little bit of Halloween candy isn’t such a bad thing as long as limits are set.”

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