These days Halloween candy crowds the aisles of store shelves within minutes of the final back-to-school sale. And while it might seem like a good idea to stock up during the early-bird sales, too often "the candy is gone by the time it's actually Halloween, so you have to go for a second batch," says Melinda Johnson, a dietitian and director of the didactic program in dietetics at Arizona State University in Tempe.
Not only do you end up spending more, there's a good chance you end up sampling more. (By the same token, don't stray into the after-holiday clearance sales.)
"This is an ideal time of year, leading into the major holidays, to add structure to family meals and make treats scheduled so they're not available all day," says Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Halloween alone won't make kids fat or instill a lifetime of poor eating habits," she adds, "but it can be a great time to implement some healthier habits."
Here are some tips from Johnson and the academy to help your family avoid a Halloween candy hangover:
• Stock up at the last minute. As Johnson noted, the longer the candy is in your house, the more likely it is that everyone will sample it before the big day.
• Buy candy you don't like. You're trying to set a good example for your children, but no matter how much willpower you possess, it can be hard to resist the siren call of the mini Snickers or Butterfinger. You might easily be able to take a pass on PixieSticks, however. To avoid temptation, buy candies that you won't want to sample. Chances are a few of your favorites will show up in your kids' bags and you can treat yourself then.
• When they return from trick-or-treating, have your kids separate their candy into two piles: Like and Don't Like. "Immediately pack up the candy in the 'don't like' pile and give it away," says Johnson. This will not only reduce the amount of sugar in the house, it will remind kids that when they indulge in sweet treats, they should be ones that they really like rather than ones that are just there for mindless snacking.
• Consider a candy buyback. "I know of lots of dentists who buy Halloween candy from their patients," says Johnson. Some dentists offer cash or coupons, toothbrushes or other services, she says. The candy is sent to troops overseas. You can find information about the program, and share it with your family dentist, at http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com.
• Send sweets yourself to the troops. Individuals who would like to ship Halloween candy to military personnel overseas can find information about how to do so at http://www.operationgratitude.com.