A scary thought for many parents is their children eating too much candy on Halloween, transforming some tykes into sick or sleepless monsters, says Amber Haroldson, a human nutrition professor at Ball State University.
“I think it’s important that parents remember that children, just as adults, are subject to the stimulating effects of chocolate and sugar,” says Haroldson. “If you don’t want them to be up all night long, regulate their intake of candy.”
She points out that chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can have side effects similar to caffeine. While it has less of an impact on the central nervous system than caffeine, too much theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness and anxiety. Additional side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and withdrawal headaches.
Haroldson says another concern is that candy replaces more nutritious foods in a child’s daily diet.
“Parents of children age 2 and younger should find appropriate and healthy alternatives to the traditional Halloween candy, such as fresh fruit” says Haroldson, who points out that Kidshealth.org recently surveyed 1,200 children regarding Halloween candy and found that about half were interested in getting non-candy items, such as stickers or crayons.
"Parents may regulate their children’s Halloween candy by having a set amount of items that night and then a certain number of pieces per day afterward. You also could have them pick out their favorite pieces and then donate or throw out the rest.
“Do what works best for your family, but it is important to have some limits. Research has shown that even children with a full stomach will overeat sweets when they see large quantities and are given the opportunity.”
Some additional tips to help your children avoid overeating Halloween candy:
Make sure they eat a healthy meal before trick or treating.
Be a good role model. Children are more likely to overeat candy if they see their parents doing it.
After Halloween night, store candy out of sight because many children will simply forget about the treats if they don’t see any.