The season of sweets begins for many children at the end of October with a large bag of trick-or-treat candy, and then continues in earnest with the traditional candy-giving holidays of Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Children's access to so much candy has many parents asking how much is too much.
Candy occupies a very tiny slice of MyPyramid, the USDA’s dietary guideline. MyPyramid places candy in a category called “extras.” For children aged 2 to 8 years old, it recommends no more than 170 calories per day of “extras” – which would be two-thirds of a Snickers bar, one pack of Starburst or 17 Whoppers.
Michele Fisch, program representative for the Placer County UC Cooperative Extension Nutrition BEST program, gathered suggestions that will help parents enforce limits on their children’s candy consumption.
- Set a specific amount for each week and stick to it. Inform children of the limit and allow them to help decide when to indulge.
- Out of sight, out of mind. After a night of trick-or-treating, allow for a few pieces of candy and then put the rest out of sight. Most children will forget it is around within a few days.
- Help other families with the battle by offering something other than sweets for children. Small cans of play dough, boxes of crayons, and other toys can now be purchased easily where you shop for candy.
- Keep sweet but healthy alternatives around the house for snacks. Fresh fruit and yogurt are good choices.
- It's never a good idea to reward children with sweets. Instead offer love and praise for a job well done.