by Nimali Fernando, a.k.a. Doctor Yum


I have noticed there are some strong, opposing camps when it comes to how parents approach Halloween. There’s the “You’re only a kid once, so let kids eat whatever they want on Halloween” camp. Then there’s the “We should only pass out water and fruit on Halloween” camp.

I would say I’m somewhere in the middle. I LOVE Halloween. I also love partaking in a few KitKats, Twix and Butterfingers. It reminds me of being a kid, and the excitement of Halloween night. It was a special time when we got to indulge and break a few rules.

But these days it seems that EVERY occasion is marked with a sugary treat- cupcakes for each of 20 classmates’ birthdays a year, many teachers who reward accomplishments with candy, every soccer game celebrated with 500 calories of Gatorade and junk food, every holiday marketed with more candy and artificial food dyes. Not to mention that the amount of sugar our kids ingest on a “regular day” has reached new heights. For instance, a flavored yogurt now has as much sugar as a candy bar, and every processed food we eat has some form of added sugar. According to the American Heart Association, the average American nine year-old ingests 25-30 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Let’s face it, for most kids in America EVERY day is Halloween! It’s no wonder that this summer I did school physicials on MULTIPLE rising kindergartners weighing in at 100 pounds. I’m also seeing MANY more toddlers and preschoolers who need extensive dental work. My appointment slots are filled more and more with managing obesity and diet-related illness. As a pediatrician I have to say, it’s demoralizing.

So this Halloween, I’m going to do my part by NOT adding to the sugar burden and offering some fun alternatives. Last year we hit the Oriental Trading Company and offered a bowl of “treats” like glowing whistle lips, glow bracelets, Halloween tattoos and pencil toppers. The response was actually really positive, and my kids told me that they wished more homes would offer similar trinkets. Anyone who has taken a kid to Chuck E. Cheese knows that cheap plastic stuff makes kids REALLY happy.

Friends have told me since then that their kids have enjoyed getting other loot like crayons, chalk, and balloons. Even healthier treats like pretzels, homemade granola bars, or raisins would work. So I will unapologetically NOT offer sugar this Halloween, and don’t mind if I’m seen as “taking the fun out of Halloween.” I know my glow bracelets will be enjoyed equally by kids who have food allergies/sensitivies, and candy-loving kids who who do not.

And what will I do with the candy my kids get from others? LET THEM EAT IT (and maybe grab a KitKat for myself!) The good news is, because my kids don’t eat a lot of candy, after a while it tastes a bit too sweet for them. Because they aren’t restricted from candy, they are not compelled to gorge on it, either.

Happy Halloween. Enjoy (in moderation!) Here’s a fruit plate treat I took my son’s school for his October birthday. It would make a fun dish for a class Halloween party. The pumpkins are made with peeled clementines and celery.