It's the time of the year that kids' dreams are filled with candy -- lots of candy.
With Halloween approaching, many parents are concerned about how they can manage their child's sugar intake.
"Halloween is a great opportunity to address your child's meal and snack habits. Remember, it's not October 31 that makes children unhealthy, but continuous and irregular poor food choices that can lead to and instill in children a lifetime of poor eating habits, " said Katie Arduini, RD, LDN, Lurie Children's registered dietitian. "Take this opportunity to make this holiday the perfect opportunity to begin including healthier habits into you and your child's daily routine."
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories per day.
"A young school-aged child, who has a 1,200 calorie intake would be limited to seven teaspoons of added sugar per day," says Robyn Blackford, RD, LDN, Lurie Children's registered dietitian.
"Not only are foods that are high in sugar unhealthy choices, but they are taking the place of nutrient-dense foods that your body needs," Blackford said. "If you fill up on sugar, then you're not hungry for foods that your body needs to grow and your brain needs in order to be focused and healthy. Too much sugar on a consistent basis can lead to diseases such as obesity, diabetes and dental cavities. This is why it is important to treat special occasions, like Halloween, just as that, a special occasion."
Blackford also points out that not all foods containing sugars are unhealthy.
"There are foods that naturally contain sugars, such as fruits, vegetables and milk that are healthy for children to eat. But, there are also foods that are manufactured with added sugars, such as those found in sodas, candy, cookies and some cereals," she said.
"There are no essential nutrients in added sugars. Whole fruits that contain naturally occurring sugar also contain fiber, which the body recognizes and will not raise your blood sugar as high or as quickly as when you eat added sugars found in candy,' she added.
So how do you manage the overindulgence of candy at Halloween?
Arduini suggests to fill up first before heading out to collect treats.
"Prevent overeating of sweets by making sure your trick-or-treaters eat a well-balanced meal or healthy snack," recommends Arduini.
Another tip: don't deny your kids candy.
"The bottom line is that if parents deny children candy, they're probably going to hide it from us," she said.
"Instead, make a plan ahead of time, including how much candy they can eat after trick-or-treating, and when they will be able to eat the leftovers. Discuss with your kids and come up with a plan together," says Arduini.
To limit the amount of leftover candy, have kids separate their collected candy into two piles: "like" and "don't like."
"For the candy in the dislike pile, collect and give it away. This will reduce the total amount of candy in your house and help prevent mindless eating," says Arduini.
• Children's Health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. For more information, visit luriechildrens.org.