Tricks for Handling All Those Treats on Halloween

trick or treaters

It is not just ghosts and goblins that can give a fright during the Halloween season. Parents throughout Pennsylvania may be slightly spooked by how much candy their trick-or-treaters come home with at the end of the night.

The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend a record $3.6 billion on candy for the holiday, and studies show people consume approximately 675 grams of sugar on Halloween, nearly 30 times the maximum daily amount for children as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Long-term studies link high sugar intake to an increased risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, later in life. It can also affect a child’s mood and hyperactivity, and it can cause painful bloating, stomachaches, intestinal distress, diarrhea and gas.

Fortunately, you do not have to be the villain who says no to all candy to help your children have a healthier Halloween this year. Like most things, moderation is key — and Halloween can be a great time to help children learn this lesson firsthand.

Fill up before trick-or-treating

A good, nutritious dinner before heading out can help children avoid filling up on candy while they trick-or-treat. Make sure their plates are at least half full of fruits or veggies. When choosing grains, opt for whole instead of refined. Also, include a hearty boost of protein to keep them full all evening long.

Beware of food allergies

One in 13 children in the United States has food allergies, and some of the most common food allergies are lurking in candy and other treats. Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat are responsible for 90% of food allergies in children.

“If you have a child with a food allergy, make sure you inspect their candy closely before they eat it,” said Sherri Sortor-Thompson, MD, a pediatrician at Penn Highlands Pediatrics in Clearfield, Pa. “And keep an eye out for teal pumpkin candy bowls as you trick-or-treat. Teal pumpkins signal that, in addition to candy, the house also offers non-food goodies for children with allergies and other conditions.”

If it is sticky, be picky

Sticky candy such as caramel, taffy and gummies are more likely to cause cavities because they stick to teeth longer than other candies. They can also wreak havoc on braces, fillings and crowns. Similarly, hard candies last longer in the mouth and can contribute to tooth decay. They can also break a tooth if you bite too hard.

On the other hand, chocolate candy is soft and does not last in the mouth for very long, so this is one of the few times you can encourage your children to choose chocolate.

Even fun-sized candies have supersized calories

They call them fun-sized for a reason — there is a lot of candy packed in a small package, and it is easy to eat piece after piece. A single fun-sized Butterfinger, for example, has 15 grams of sugar, more than half of the maximum daily sugar recommended by the AAP.

Have a plan for extra candy

One day of extra candy is unlikely to cause long-term health issues, but you run into trouble when that one day turns into a week or more. Instead of allowing your children to have unlimited access to their candy haul, let them pick one or two pieces per day over the next week. After a week, the excitement has often worn off and you can either donate or save the candy for a later time.

A common tactic you could consider is to offer to “buy back” your children’s candy. It does not need to be a monetary transaction, either. Children can trade in the candy for coupons for a fun activity, such as an afternoon at the park, a trip to the library or a movie night.

You can also save the candy and use it for stuffing Christmas stockings, baking holiday cookies or decorating gingerbread houses. Celebrating a late fall or early winter birthday? Use leftover candy to fill a piñata at the next birthday party. You can even save it for Valentine cards! Just be sure to check the expiration date.

Many organizations accept donated candy to send to children’s hospitals, homeless shelters or care packages for overseas troops. Donating extra candy can also be a great way to talk with your children about giving during the upcoming winter holidays.

Halloween unofficially kicks off the holiday and cold weather seasons which are prime times for illnesses among children and teens -- and ultimately visits to the doctor. Penn Highlands Healthcare provides Pediatric and Family Medicine clinics in convenient locations throughout Pennsylvania. It is important to note that you do need to be sick to see your physician. Penn Highlands physicians and providers are there for routine check-ups, such as sports physicals, as well as immunizations and more. To find a provider visit,