Halloween 2016: A Dietitian’s Perspective

This post was written by Emily Rubin, RD, Clinical Dietitian in Jefferson’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and mom of 11 year old twin boys.

two boys in costume

Emily Rubin’s 11 year old twin sons are ready for Halloween!

I remember the days when Halloween was easy. My mom made me the nicest costumes – a princess, candy bar, the Statue of Liberty – and I  walked the neighborhood for hours with pillow cases filled with candy, eating some while trick-or-treating  and some while trading candy with friends. I would come home to drop off my overflowing bag and round two of trick-or-treating would start.

These days Halloween is more complicated: we are more aware of nutrition issues such as  food allergies, questionable poisoned/tainted Halloween candy, and the negative impact on health the amount of candy one consumes can have. Here are a few common questions raised around Halloween:

Q: How do we help kids that have food allergies still enjoy Halloween?
A: Teal Pumpkin.  With the rise of food allergies – nuts, gluten, milk, soy, etc. The Teal Pumpkin Project was inspired by a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) and launched as a national campaign in 2014. What you can do to help?   Provide non-food treats, such as glow sticks, stickers or small toys, as an alternative to candy to trick-or-treaters.  Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate that you have non-food treats available .

Q: Does your candy contain added dangerous substances?
A: Probably not – but you need to make sure. Have a parent check each piece  and throw out  any candy that is not sealed. If you are really concerned,  some facilities will put your candy through x- ray machines to see what is in it.

Q: Halloween is not just about candy, is it?
A: Make it a family event – pumpkin painting, pumpkin carving, decorating the house, hay rides, corn mazes, haunted houses etc.  Let’s not forgot about the fun of making or finding  the perfect costume.  Of course when we think of Halloween , we think of candy. There is no one candy that is better than another – candy is candy and moderation is key. Limit 2-3 snack pieces a day for one week only; pick your favorite  .

Q: What can you do with the rest of that candy that really should not be consumed?
A: Send it to our troops, a local homeless shelter, or a food bank. Many dentists or orthodontists will buy back candy (typically $1 per pound up to five pounds). Use the candy for science experiments or math homework –Mike and Ike’s and Skittles are great for solving equations.

Remember to enjoy Halloween with all the  festivities,  but eat your favorite candy in moderation.

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