No Trick To Halloween Sweet Treats
If this year's Halloween is like those past, some 36 million children(1), aged five to thirteen years, are poised to don costumes to go trick-or-treating. And while it is a holiday when Americans focus on sweet treats, registered dietitian Kris Clark, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University, says that Halloween is a perfect time to clear up confusion about the role of sweets in the diet and misconceptions about different sweeteners.
In 2005, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended limiting so-called "discretionary" calories to about 200 per day for adults and about 180 calories daily for youngsters aged nine to thirteen years. Sweet treats fall in that category, according to Dr. Clark.
"No one says that it's smart to eat a lot of these foods," Dr. Clark says. "But an occasional treat can be allowed. And Halloween is one of those days when it's fine to enjoy a few treats."
Dr. Clark adds that the sweeteners used in many Halloween treats are nearly identical. "High fructose corn syrup and table sugar both contain the same four calories per gram and are metabolized the same way in the body," she says. "And, I agree with the Food and Drug Administration's decision that high fructose corn syrup can be used in 'natural' labeled products."
Dr. Clark also concurs with the recent finding by the American Medical Association that "high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners."
"Many accusations today rely on speculation that tries to link single ingredients, including sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, to obesity," said Dr. Clark. "All Americans are eating more of everything -- it's the excess calories and sedentary lifestyle that are having the greatest impact."
A recent, national survey(2) of 400 mothers finds that many worry most about individual ingredients -- rather than calories -- in their children's food. When asked what they are concerned about when buying food for their children, half responded with sugar (50%) and high fructose corn syrup (49%), while only one quarter cited the caloric content of food.
To help keep Halloween fun and healthy, Dr. Clark recommends:
Swap dark chocolate for milk chocolate. It provides more flavor to help satisfy young and old taste buds, plus it's got antioxidants, which have a variety of health benefits, including boosting immunity.
Control portions with 100-calorie snack packs. Provide pre-packaged 100-calorie servings of your favorite cookies, crackers and snack mixes.
Sneak in some protein. Protein helps moderate blood sugar from rising fast after eating. So look for treats with nuts or peanut butter. Small packages of commercially prepared trail mix are another option.
Add fruit. Chocolate-covered or yogurt-covered raisins or other dried fruit are easy ways to boost nutritional value.
Consider non-food treats. Toss stickers, removable tattoos, sport or character cards, bracelets or necklaces to the trick-or-treat bowl or basket, then let kids choose for themselves.