How much Halloween candy should you eat? Doctor tells kids to 'eat whatever they want'

·4 min read

For the decades trick-or-treating has been around and the generations of people that have partaken in the Halloween tradition, the goal has always remained the same:

Get as much candy as possible.

Those in costumes can spend hours knocking on doors and ringing doorbells so they can secure a big haul of sweets before parents call it a night. With an expected $10 billion spent by Americans on Halloween items, and an average of $102 spent on candy by consumers, the number of treats up for grabs will be plentiful across the county.

However, some children will try to eat as much sugary goodness as possible, which may be concerning for some parents unsure as to how much candy they should allow their children to eat. It may also be something some adults may wonder about themselves as well, as they sneakily hoard Halloween hauls for themselves.

Thaileah Winfrey, 10, of Dubuque, Iowa, gets a closer look of Terry Kosel, dressed as the "Great Pumpkin," while trick-or-treating along South Grandview Avenue Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Dubuque, Iowa.
Thaileah Winfrey, 10, of Dubuque, Iowa, gets a closer look of Terry Kosel, dressed as the "Great Pumpkin," while trick-or-treating along South Grandview Avenue Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Dubuque, Iowa.

Many health experts say there is no right or wrong amount of candy one should consume during or after Halloween, but one thing to definitely check for: make sure the candy is safe to eat.

"Anything with holes in the packaging, those should all be thrown out and not consumed," Dr. Ben Levinson, primary care pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told USA TODAY.

Levinson added parents should be cautious of anything homemade as well, as it may contain allergens.

But for the candy that is safe? Levinson said children can go all-in.

"I generally will tell families most people can eat whatever they want in one day, and that's not going to really harm their health in the long run," he said. "If we continue eating large amounts of sugar day-after-day, that's when things are going to add up and really affect us in a negative way."

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Levinson noted he does see an increase in reported stomachaches from people, similar to what happens after Thanksgiving. It makes sense, as research from Coupon Follow in 2020 found the average American eats around 3.4 pounds of candy on Halloween, and children consume around 7,000 calories and three cups of sugar on the day.

Those statistics may sound scary, but Amy Reed, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said people shouldn't just avoid candy, and eating it can actually be beneficial to your health.

The 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines the diet of children ages 3-17 should have no more than 10% added sugars as part of their total diet. So if a kid has some candy, they should be fine as long as their diet is balanced with fruits, vegetables, protein, etc.

"There is this idea that we need to make all holiday candy healthy or not eat it at all. Eating provides us with energy, but it also provides us with memories, social connection, and multiple sensory experiences, like taste," Reed said. "If you're doing your job and creating a good relationship with food for your children the other 364 days a year, then Halloween night doesn't have to be stressful."

She adds part of that healthy relationship with food includes parents not rewarding children with candy for eating healthy food, which can elevate their view of candy. Also, parents shouldn't just restrict their amount of junk food, as it can make them only want candy more.

"In the end, it's probably just better to eat the candy," Reed said.

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Keep in mind, the candy doesn't do any favors to your teeth. Connecticut dentist Dr. Mariya Malin said after Halloween, people do come into her office because of a broken or chipped tooth as a result of eating hard candy. She also said after eating that Halloween candy, brush their teeth as soon as you can, but that become more challenging depending on what candy you eat.

"Dark chocolate is the best because it's easier to clean off," Malin said. "Candy that sticky and chewy with caramel and nuts and all that kind of stuff is much more difficult to clean off your teeth because it gets stuck between the teeth and the surfaces of the teeth in the grooves."

And for all candy corn lovers, it may not be the best option to eat. One serving can contain 22 grams of sugar, when most health experts recommend no more than 25 grams per day.

So if kids insist on eating as much Halloween candy as they can, it shouldn't be a big deal. Besides, if they don't eat all of it, numerous organizations take in candy to donate.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Halloween candy: Doctors give advice on how much kids should eat

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