by Kristen Griffith
Halloween can be an exciting and fun time for parents and kids. Finding the perfect costume, hosting Halloween parties, and of course trick-or-treating are fun parts of the occasion.
But have you ever thought that the celebration might be making you and your children unhealthy? A recent study, done by NielsonWire, showed that $1.9 billion worth of candy is sold each year at Halloween. Of that, $1.2 billion is spent on chocolate, which equates to 598 million pounds of candy and almost 1,300 billion calories. With obesity rates in Canada on the rise, one in four Canadian adults and one in 10 children have clinical obesity, according to the Canadian Obesity Network. The billions of extra calories are making a bad situation worse.
Candy and sugary treats also affect our oral health; did you know that dental decay, or cavities, is the most common chronic disease of children in Canada?
So what can we do to enjoy Halloween but make it healthier for everyone?
Choose healthy fun alternatives to candy to hand out like:
-100% fruit snacks
-Real fruit cups
-Individually wrapped cheese sticks
-Granola bars-made with real fruit
-100% real fruit juice boxes
-Box of raisins
Or give alternatives to food goodies such as:
-Small bouncy balls
To help promote a healthy lifestyle come up with ways to limit amount of candy consumed as a family. In my house we would go through our trick-or-treat bags at the end of the night and pick out our favorites then donate the rest. Some communities have a candy buy-back program where they will buy your left over Halloween candy from you. Don’t forget to include physical activities at Halloween parties like broom-riding races, the limbo, scavenger or treasure hunts or a corn maze, and if the weather permits, walk with your children door-to-door instead of driving them.
To decrease the risk of tooth decay, provide children with tooth-friendly snacks to counter the candy, such as apples, cheese, yogurt and fresh vegetables. Brush your children’s teeth at least twice a day for two minutes – or even more if frequently if they are having sugary snacks.
Floss wherever the teeth touch each other. Lift your child’s top and bottom lip, at least once a month, to check along the gum line for brown, black, yellow or white chalky spots that can often be signs of early cavities. It is also important, for the maintenance of good oral health, to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Many dental offices, independent dental hygiene clinics, and community health settings offer free “happy visits” for children 3 years old and younger. Alberta Health Services offers a free Fluoride Protection for Toddlers program at health units across the province for eligible children aged 12-35 months. Call your local Public Health office and/or private clinic to see what programs they have to offer and remember to have fun and stay healthy as a family.
Kristen Griffiths is a dental hygienist with Alberta Health Services’ Population Health Promotion and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]