CSU Extension: Putting Halloween candy into perspective

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— As a mother and registered dietitian nutritionist, I always have dreaded Halloween. Children and parents alike look forward to dressing in wacky costumes and scouring the neighborhood and business community for candy. For many children, the tradition of trick-or-treating and bringing home lots of candy is the best part of the Halloween celebration. Parents, however, may not be quite so enthusiastic about the loot collected.

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Karen Massey

Routt County CSU Extension

This monthly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds, lightly tossed with oil and seasoning, can be a nutrient-packed snack enjoyed by the whole family.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut the stem off of the fresh pumpkin. Reach into the cavity and pull out the seeds, separating them from the moist pumpkin fibers. Rinse the seeds in a colander, then toss with oil. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, sprinkle with seasoning salt and roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Cool and eat.

As a nutrition professional, I constantly am challenged by the need to balance my convictions about healthful eating with the need to let kids be kids. Let’s face it: Who wants to hear from a wet-blanket dietitian talking about health during Halloween?

After a few failed healthy Halloween attempts with my own family, we finally settled on an approach to Halloween that worked for my children and for me.

Consider some of these strategies for managing this year’s Halloween fun:

• First, remember that Halloween is a single day that happens once each year. Your mission is to enjoy it without letting the sugary treats take over your lives for the several weeks before and after the holiday.

• Take time to enjoy the celebration with your family and friends. Focus on creative costumes, bobbing for apples and pumpkin carving.

• On Halloween night, make sure that everyone leaves the house with something healthy in their stomach. A bowl of soup or a light supper gives everyone the nourishment they need for their exhausting door-to-door adventure. It also prevents your goblins and princesses from overeating candy because they haven’t had dinner.

• Once you get home, do a candy inventory. (For my kids, this is a natural part of trick-or-treating.) Have them sort their treasure into three equal piles: a pile of “favorites”, a pile of “just OK” items and a pile of items “don’t like” items.

• After eating their fill on Halloween night, the “favorites” can be stored in the kitchen (not your child’s bedroom!) and portioned out for desserts and special treats.

• Bag up the “just OK” items and slip them into the freezer. They can be consumed at a later time or most likely, forgotten and given away later.

• Take the “don’t like” pile and donate it to the candy bowl at work or some other worthy cause.

• Talk with your family about non-candy treats that you can share for Halloween.

Most of all, take the opportunity this Halloween to discuss balance and moderation in your family’s diet. Tell them about healthy foods that should make up the bulk of their diet like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and protein-rich foods like meat. Explain that candy provides lots of calories and very little nutritional value. Remind them that while all foods (even Halloween treats) can be part of a healthy diet, they should be eaten in moderation and balanced with daily physical activity for good health.

Oh, and one more thing. Whatever your tactic with Halloween, make sure to encourage kids to brush their teeth after eating those sugar-laden treats.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. Contact Massey at 970-879-0825 or karen.massey@colostate.edu with questions.

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