Halloween time to talk health

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What: "Kids & Candy" informational meetingsWhen: 7 p.m. Monday, noon ThursdayWhere: Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room 1Cost: Free

— Halloween is a time for scary goblins, ghouls and witches. It's also a time for many parents to face their own fears, such as their children eating an exorbitant amount of candy.

Because Halloween provides children the opportunity to collect massive amounts of candy, it also provides a good opportunity to address healthy living. To that end, Yampa Valley Medical Center is hosting "Kids & Candy," two free informational programs aimed at helping parents better understand the importance of raising healthy children.

"As Halloween approaches, we wanted to have an opportunity to explain to parents how sugary foods affect their children. Too much sugar in a child's diet can affect not only their health but their weight, their emotions and their self-esteem," Yampa Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said.

The programs, to be held at 7 p.m. Monday and noon Thursday at the hospital, will address Halloween-specific issues such as how to moderate candy intake and also will focus on broader concepts such as healthy living and making the right decisions for children.

Family physician Rosanne Iversen said people often think Steamboat Springs is a fit and healthy community, which she said simply isn't true.

"I believe we feel like we live healthy lifestyles, but we don't. On a national level, we are less healthy than we were a decade ago," she said.

Iversen is concerned that 30 percent of the nation's children are overweight, especially because statistics show that overweight children often become overweight adults.

"The standard American diet is not healthy. We eat non-nutritious foods and too many calories. We are less active, and kids certainly are no exception to this trend," she said.

Iversen, along with former high school counselor Joan Alls--berry, will address that issue and give tips about what parents can do to make sure their children are eating the right kinds of foods and getting proper exercise.

"It's not about Halloween," she said. "It's about life. It's about how you choose to live and the daily choices you make."

Iversen said almost none of the children she sees eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Iversen said there is nothing wrong with trick-or-treating and "enjoying a little bit of life," but there is something wrong when a child will eat all of his or her Halloween candy in a week.

"There is no concept of limit or portion-control in our society," she said.

Specifically related to Hallo--ween, Iversen recommends that parents feed their children before they take them out to trick-or-treat. If children aren't hungry, they'll be less likely to want to eat more candy when they get home.

Iversen said parents also should have rules about when and how much candy a child can have in the days and weeks after Halloween.

Iversen warns that although binge candy-eating one day a year might not make a child sick, children who binge on candy and are used to that sort of behavior are setting themselves up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating.

McKelvie hopes the "Kids & Candy" programs will bring awareness to parents who might not understand how important healthy eating is and also provide resources for parents who want more information about ways to address healthy living with their children.

"It's going to be a great education program," she said.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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