SPRINGFIELD – The American Heart Association is reaching out to families to show how children can have fun this Halloween while staying healthy.
Halloween is such a fun time. Dressing up to be scary or funny, walking with friends from house to house and getting sweet treats is so much fun. But, the annual celebration that includes junk food and candy can have a negative impact far beyond just Halloween. Childhood obesity has reached an alarming level in the United States. More than one in three children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
Obesity can lead to other significant health issues like heart disease, diabetes and stroke. However, simple choices can help parents guide their kids toward a healthier path and during the bewitching season.
The American Heart Association offers these tips for a healthier Halloween this year:
• Remember to have a healthy meal before you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to “snack” while walking.
• Make this a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and then stick to it.
• Think about a healthier version of treats to give out at your house: Mini boxes of raisins, 100 percent juice juice-boxes, snack sized pretzels, pre-packaged trail mixes, pre-packaged dried fruits, crayons, stickers, silly bands, tooth brushes, bubbles, plastic spiders, or coupons to local frozen yogurt stores. Avoid using toys that could be a choking hazard to little ones.
• Find the right sized collection bag for your child. Steer clear of the pillow case method.
• Create a plan to deal with excess candy lying around your house come Nov. 1.
• Avoid the urge to buy on-sale candy in the grocery stores after Halloween.
• Select one piece of candy per day for five days and put those in the refrigerator. When your child asks for a piece of candy, make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some healthy nuts, or celery.
• Avoid the additional empty calories of sugar sweetened beverages like soda, which has been linked to weight gain and obesity in children.
• “Buy back” the candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at a local park, or going ice-skating.
• Some dentist offices and veterans’ groups have been known to buy back the candy from the community, so be on the lookout for that option.
For more information on healthy lifestyles for children, visit www.heart.org/healthierkids