Halloween is creeping up on us and soon the sidewalks will be lined with little ghosts and goblins marching from one house to the next in search of sugary treats. Halloween can be scary, especially when it comes to the amount of calories and sugar consumed by children around this time of year.
While taking away the candy seems like an easy fix, it’s easier said than done. “No one wants to be the “mean parent,” says Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director at Gramercy Pediatrics. “I specialize in childhood obesity and while I don’t condone binging on candy, I also don’t recommend taking away all of the candy your kids collect. Instead, I place limits on how much my kids are allowed to eat at any given time. They know they’re only allowed a certain amount of candy on Halloween and can enjoy the rest over the next couple of months. I usually throw one or two treats in their lunch bag once or twice a week and they love the surprise.”
Dr. Hes offers some tried and true tips to help make Halloween a bit healthier for your little monsters:
- Don’t Trick or Treat on an Empty Stomach – “Feed your kids an early dinner before they head out,” says Dr. Hes. “I live in an apartment building in New York City, which enables my kids to trick or treat at more than forty households in less than an hour! A full belly will make them less likely to gorge on candy bars and lollipops as they make their way around.” It’s also a good idea to carry some water with you to wash down all those sugary sweets they will eat along the way.
- Pile it Up – After a successful trick or treat, kids usually love to dump their candy all over to see how much they were able to accumulate. Dr. Hes recommends dumping out all of the candy into piles – one pile they like and another they don’t. Take all of the castaways, put them in a bag and bring the bag to your office. “Getting it out of the house gives the entire family a greater chance at maintaining a healthy diet,” says Dr. Hes. “You won’t even miss it!”
- Lead by Example – Instead of filling the basket by the front door with sugary confections, trade them in for healthier treats that kids will still eat. Dr. Hes suggests organic fruit snacks, organic safety lollipops, or even loose change! Kids love getting a few cents in their bags.
- Get Moving – Halloween trick or treating is the perfect family outing. Instead of chauffeuring the kids around the neighborhood, encourage them to walk. They can even make a game out of it by using pedometers or activity monitors to track their movement and compete with their friends or siblings to see who took the most steps. “Small steps like taking the stairs instead of the elevator can also make a world of difference in getting them to be more active,” says Dr. Hes.
- Shift Focus – Ingrain in your kids that Halloween is not only about the candy. Focus on other activities and crafts like carving pumpkins and baking the pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. Kids love to decorate the house or the front door with spooky decorations. Let them make homemade decorations instead of buying them! Use cotton to make spider webs or pipe cleaners. This is always a big hit … all in costume of course!
About Dr. Dyan Hes
Dr. Dyan Hes is the Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City and sits on the board of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She earned her medical degree at the American Program of the Sackler School of Medicine at the University of Tel Aviv and completed her residency in Social Pediatrics at New York’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center. She currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Prior to founding Gramercy Pediatrics, Dr. Hes maintained a large primary care practice for ten years within Park Slope Pediatrics in Brooklyn. In addition, she developed and continues to serve as Director of the Pediatric Weight Management Program at New York Methodist Hospital. In conjunction with the Park Slope YMCA, Dr. Hes created the Be Fit program for overweight children, which has served as a successful model of collaboration between hospitals and community centers. An active advocate for pediatric and adolescent nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hes was honored by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for her efforts to combat obesity among Brooklyn youth. In 2006, she served as an Expert Witness at the NYC Department of Health Hearing to Ban Trans Fat in Restaurant Food. Currently, Dr. Hes is serving on a panel of national experts of the Obesity Society to develop a certification exam in Obesity Medicine. Dr. Hes was named one of New York’s Top Doctors of 2011, 2012, and 2013 by Castle and Connolly. In 2013, Dr. Dyan Hes was also named Top Doctor by New York Magazine.