“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 (an allergy for me). 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 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 to reduce risks for health complications.  This equates to 200 calories per day (50g of sugar) or about 12 teaspoons of sugar, for the average American diet of 2,000 calories. For kids, that’s even less based on lower estimated daily calorie needs. That’s the recommendation. But here reality on this spooky day in an infographic from National Retail Federation on US Candy Consumption & Halloween Spending Facts:

With a quick comparison, you don’t need a dietitian to point out that 3.4 pounds of candy or 3 cups of added sugar is more than 12 teaspoons. And, while I am all for the occasional night of indulging in some extra candy or sweets, 3 cups of added sugar in just one night is a scary amount. How can we celebrate the holiday without going overboard on this one night?

For the people who hand out candy:
  • Estimate how much candy you’ll be handing out and keep track year after year. For example, last year I bought three bags of candy to hand out and did not get a single trick or treater. This year? I know I don’t need any at all.
  • If you do have leftovers after Halloween, you can donate and share with others.
  • Candy also freezes really well, so you can save it for small treats throughout the year.
  • If you still feel like you’ll eat all of your leftovers right away, opt for a non-food giveaway – like glow bracelets or spider rings. This is also safer for kids with allergies!
For when you have trick or treaters of your own:
  • Make sure that you and your kids eat a balanced meal before hitting the neighborhood. You have a better chance of making healthy, nourishing choices for dinner before rather than after walking the neighborhood. Empty stomachs while trick or treating = more empty wrappers at the end of the night.
  • Set a reasonable (not too strict) 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 to save their candy pile. This instills mindful eating, and encourages 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 encourage mindful 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 “trunk or treat” events. This allows for a safer evening, but takes away the active aspect of Halloween. Get some extra steps in if you are opting for a close-knit trick or treat.
  • If you know you’ll be enjoying candy later in the evening, limit your sugar during the beginning of the day. Try having less soda, sweets and other added sugars than what you typically have to enjoy candy at night.

Above everything, be safe, be mindful, and be aware of added sugars.