“Two of my Tootsie Pops for your 3 Muskateers.” – I can still hear my sister trying to trade up from her current candy pile. “Nope.” I’d reply…3 Muskateers are my favorite. At the end of the night, we would dump our pillow cases – filled to the top and tied in a knot from trick or treating around the neighborhood and line up every single piece of candy.

“My Twix for your Snickers,” she’d come back with. A fair trade for both of us – equally king sized bars, and a chance for me to trade out candy with peanuts which I’m allergic to. We’d make these trades all night, Hocus Pocus playing in the background, eating candies all along the way. We’d end with our favorites in a line, a joint pile of wrappers, and very full tummies.

Halloween was and is still a night for treats, but there are some spooky truths about sugar consumed on Halloween and with American Diabetes Month kicking off just 12 hours later in November, it’s important to know the tricks of the trade.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% of daily calories consumed in order to reduce risks for health complications such as Type 2 Diabetes. With on the average estimated intake of 2,000 calorie diet, this equates to 200 calories per day (50g of sugar) or about 12 teaspoons of sugar. For kids, that’s even less based on lower estimated daily calorie needs. That’s what’s recommended. But here is a look at what’s reality on this spooky day in an infographic from National Retail Federation on US Candy Consumption & Halloween Spending Facts:

After knowing the guidelines and comparing to this infographic, you don’t need a dietitian to point out the fact that 3.4 pounds of candy in one night or 3 cups of added sugar is more than the recommended dietary guideline of 12 teaspoons. And, while I am all for the tradition of Halloween, the fun of the treats, and the occasional night of indulging in some extra candy or sweets, 3 cups of added sugar in just one night is a scary amount. So how can we enjoy the holiday without going overboard on the eve of American Diabetes Month?

For the handout side:

  • Estimate how much candy you’ll be handing out on Halloween and keep track for the following year. For example, last year I bought three bags of candy to hand out and did not get a single trick or treater at my door. Turns out all of the kids in my neighborhood end up a few streets down where they block car access for safety. This year? I know I don’t need any at all.
  • If you do have leftovers after handing out candy, it can be donated and shared with others to enjoy or frozen and saved for gradual treats throughout the year.
  • Donating or freezing may take a lot of willpower, though, and an even better idea may be to opt for a different giveaway – like glow bracelets or spider rings. This is safer for kids with allergies and you won’t be tempted to eat any leftovers.

For when you have trick or treaters of your own:

  • Make sure that you and your kids eat a good dinner before hitting the neighborhood. You have a better chance of making healthy, nourishing choices for dinner if you eat when you are hungry and less risk of loading up on candy if you postpone dinner until after the treats. Empty stomachs will only mean more empty wrappers at the end of the night.
  • Set a limit on the amount that can be eaten in one night and encourage saving the rest for a different day. Try offering a longterm incentive for kids to focus on by only eating one piece from the pile each day. This not only instills mindful eating, but also encourages the many benefits of appreciating longterm goals over instant gratification.
  • Be mindful of portions – king sized portions of candy bars can be equal to as much as 4 times a snack or fun sized piece of candy. Read labels to help make good choices.
  • Keep empty wrappers in one pile rather than throwing each away. This will act as a reminder of how much you’ve eaten en route.
  • Take a walk. Or a bike ride. Or whatever other type of activity you enjoy with the family. Many traditional neighborhood trick or treat routes have switched to closer stopping points with “trunk or treat” events. This allows for a more safe-fun oriented evening, but takes away the active aspect of Halloween. Make sure to get some extra steps in to make up for the extra sugar.
  • If you know you’ll be enjoying candy later in the evening, limit your sugar during the beginning of the day – less soda, sweets and other added sugars than what you typically have to make some wiggle room at the end of the day.

Above everything, be safe, be mindful, and be aware that the whole month of November you’ll get tips from me regarding diabetes 🙂