Some sources estimate that Irish children eat between 3500 and 7000 calories from Halloween sweets each year, mostly in the form of sugar. But does that really matter? And what can we do about it anyway? Watch Heather share some tips on Virgin Media Weekend AM . Or, read more below and get our healthier Halloween recipe ideas.
Of course, having some treats from time to time is not an issue. However, the statistics for our kids are amongst the worst in Europe in terms of obesity and sugar consumption. On average 20 – 25% of the calories from a child’s diet in Ireland comes from sugary drinks, confectionary, biscuits, cake, chocolate and other foods meant to be occasional treats. Having too much sugar on a regular basis displaces more nutritious foods, especially veg and fruit and establishes eating habits that will be very difficult to change in later life. It can also have health implications including gut issues (excess sugar upsets the microbiome and can lead to tummy issues) and longer term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
How much is too much?
The limit for free sugars set by the World Health Organisation is no more than 10% and ideally no more than 5% of calorie intake. This equates to 5 -10 teaspoons of added sugar per day for adults and less for children. When you consider that many everyday food items like yoghurts, cereals, pasta sauces, ketchup and even bread contain lots of added sugar, it’s easy to see how many exceed limits without even eating any treats. And at Halloween we really let rip!
So what should we do this Halloween?
- Think about healthier swaps that won’t cause a riot. Like giving water or even squash instead of soft drinks. Dilute cranberry or another dark juice or cordial for ‘blood’
- Give your kids a good dinner before they go trick or treating. Chicken or bean fajitas are a great seasonal option.
- Have a smaller trick or treat bag or basket
- Give snack size treats and stick to pure chocolate where possible. Avoid jellies and lollies as these usually have more sugar and worse dental impact
- Agree beforehand how much your child can eat on the night. Put the rest up out of sight and (hopefully) mind and use up over the next month or two. You can also ‘edit’ the stash yourself, removing some of the least healthy options
Some healthier options at home this Halloween:
Have healthier Halloween options available at home e.g. fruit bowl, monkey nuts or other nuts if safe and savoury snacks like popcorn and pretzels. Other ideas:
- Healthier fruit brack
- Halloween pizza slices with cheese shaped like ghosts or bats
- Bat or witches hat shaped pitta chips (cut shapes from wholegrain pitta or wraps and bake in oven for 10 minutes) with tomato salsa / pepper hummus dip
- mozzarella eyeballs
- banana ghosts – half bananas and push in chocolate chips for eyes and moth
- tangerine pumpkins – peel tangerines and use a piece of celery / cucumber for stalk
See our Halloween recipes ideas for details on how to make these.
For trick or treaters:
- satsumas or apples
- Small chocolate bars, buttons or coins rather than jellies or lollypops
- Non-food treats e.g. pencils / stickers / tatoos
Enjoy Halloween and the extra hour in bed this Sunday!