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updated: 10/10/2012 11:49 AM

Taming the Candy Monsters at Halloween

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Lake County Health Department

Halloween is just around the corner, and most kids can't wait. When else can you dress up in funny or frightening costumes, go door to door, and collect all the free candy you can fit in your bag?

While Halloween is a kid's dream, it can be a nightmare for parents who struggle all year to get their children to eat enough fruits and vegetables and avoid excessive sugars and saturated fat. Toby Smithson, Community Dietitian with the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, offers some tips for managing a happy and healthy Halloween:

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Wait and buy Halloween candy later rather than sooner. If the candy is not there, it removes the temptation to pilfer before the holiday.

Feed kids a healthy meal before they go out trick-or-treating so they won't replace dinner with candy.

Make sure children brush their teeth well after enjoying their loot.

Hand out two or three of the bite-sized candy bars instead of one full-sized bar to reduce calories and fat. Or instead of candy, hand out pencils, markers, erasers, rings, bracelets, stickers, temporary tattoos, key chains, plastic snakes, individual packs of dried fruit, or sugarless gum. Just be careful of choking hazards with young kids.

If you're hosting a Halloween party, make it a seasonal festival - serve pumpkin muffins, spiced apple cider, and have the kids dunk for apples. There are plenty of games and activities that don't involve candy-- decorate little pumpkins, hold a costume contest, visit haunted houses or show a spooky movie (not too scary) with some fresh popped popcorn.

Limit the houses that children visit. Together with your child, choose 10 or 15 of the best-decorated homes to visit on Halloween. Tell your child these people are particularly excited to greet trick-or-treaters.

Parents can help their children control their candy consumption by having them dump

all of their "goodies" onto the kitchen table and then sorting them into three different

piles: their favorites, the ones they think are just so-so, and ones they don't really care

for. The goal of the three piles is to allow kids the chance to designate their favorites

and parents the chance to dispose of, or combine candy into smaller packages so it's

not all eaten at one time.

The real key with Halloween, as with any other time of the year, is to watch how much you eat," Smithson says. "Halloween can be a healthier holiday when parents and kids work together to plan their treats in moderation."

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