While children reap all the candy they can on Halloween, health conscious parents may be cringing.
The idea of calories and fat may the most frightening thing about the holiday built around ghosts and goblins.
The average child gets several pounds of candy, which means many thousand calories. An average size plastic jack-o-lantern used for trick or treating filled with candy has around 9,000 calories.
But health officials say candy can be indulged in safely as long as there is some balance and care for teeth.
The website, Webmd.com, says the holiday could be used to teach children oral health.
Not allowing children to partake of the holiday might send the wrong message, and make the candy even more appealing.
WebMD recommends setting a "snack time" and keeping only a set amount of the candy. Reminding children to brush their teeth soon after eating candy is also a good health reminder and helps set a good habit.
Also there is no need to keep several pounds of candy. Some estimate the average haul on trick or treat night is more than 10 pounds. That would be well over 10,000 calories. Keep some that is your child’s favorites, and even throw away the rest to avoid temptation.
Limiting candy to a couple of times a day will make the treasured haul last longer, and won't have adverse health effects for healthy people.
Candy can cause cavities if you don’t brush afterwards, but other foods do as well. The problem with eating candy, medical experts say, is how much you eat and how often you eat it.
Some candy and Halloween treats are actually healthy if taken in moderation. Chocolate - especially dark chocolate - has antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Raisins can reduce oral bacteria. Seeds and peanut butter have healthy fats and minerals that reduce heart disease and can help with weight loss.
Here are some healthy Halloween eating habits from mealsmatter.org.
Serve children a balanced meal before the Halloween festivities begin so that children aren't tempted to eat their candy before they get home.
Discuss with children in advance how much and how often they are allowed to eat their Halloween candy.
Offer trick-or-treat candy as a substitute for dessert after lunch and dinner or a few pieces along with a healthy snack.
Mix in healthy snacks along with Halloween candy, like string cheese, vegetables with dip, trail mix, yogurt or a glass of milk – for dunking cookies and washing down candy.
Model healthy habits to your children by practicing restraint when dipping into the candy jar yourself.
Remember that dessert can be part of a healthy diet. Overly restrictive rules on candy can make it even more desirable to your kids.