Halloween Proximity Alert: It’s a Childhood Obesity Issue

Banana fan
Poor old Halloween! It has been criticized for years on other grounds. More recently, the anti-Halloween sentiment centers around the health aspect. Even people who don’t want to abolish Halloween would like to radically change its nature.

In Edmonds, CO, they have a newly established custom promoted by local activist Corey Colwell-Lipson. In her family, Halloween was always a stressful time because of her son’s peanut allergy, but her concern widened to include childhood obesity, along with “the discovery of chemicals and lead in store-bought costumes and accessories and the waste generated at Halloween.”

Brian Soergel reports:

For the second year in a row, downtown Edmonds will be celebrating Green Halloween, an event promoted as providing traditional Halloween festivities while providing healthy, fun and economical green ideas for kids and their parents.

Some people definitely want to see Halloween kicked out of the public schools. At Care.2.com, Kristina Chew enumerates some of them, and says,

Certainly it does seem somewhat odd to condone massive eating of sugary items in a day and age when childhood obesity is on the rise amid worries about an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. The ban on Halloween in schools is a sign of the times and reflects changes in society.

In Muskegon, MI, Lynn Moore did a thorough investigation of local attitudes and questioned several educators, learning that many schools are dropping Halloween in favor of other fall activities, with emphasis on health, fitness, and the nutritious foods brought in by the seasonal harvest. The writer quotes elementary school principal Carol Dawson, who says,

We’re trying to blaze a new trail to make our celebrations a focus on health and wellness. Schools are a model for a lot of things. Why wouldn’t we try to be a model for healthy lifestyles?

HealthNewsDigest.com offers a list of eight suggestions for parents who want to limit the candy consumption on Halloween. Not surprisingly, the suggestions come from someone who has been quoted before, here at Childhood Obesity NewsMindStream Academy’s director of operations, Sarah Stone. Stone warns against creating a “forbidden fruit” atmosphere around candy, which will only make kids want it more. Many children can handle sweets in moderation.

Of course, it’s always best to keep a good level of exercise, but Stone urges something like going into training for this holiday, suggesting that parents…

… place a special emphasis on exercise during the weeks leading up to Halloween in order to prepare for the extra calories that are on the horizon. Talk with your kids about how you can offset increased calorie consumption so that they make the connection.

She also suggests shifting the emphasis from anticipation of candy to anticipation of the fun of dressing up. Experiment with homemade costumes. What a perfect opportunity to spend some quality family time together, not just for one evening or weekend, but even for weeks ahead of time.

And, for goodness sake, serve those kids a filling, nutritious dinner before trick-or-treating. This suggestion will only work in certain neighborhoods and with younger children, but one thing an adult can do is plan a trick-or-treat route where houses are farther apart, where it’s necessary to do more walking to get less candy.

It makes a lot of sense to limit the number of treats a child may consume on Halloween itself. Plus, this is another good reason to say no to candy-nibbling during the trick-or-treat expedition because, of course, for safety’s sake everything should be given the parental once-over. Back home, kids might want to trade with each other. And then, they can pick a certain pre-agreed number of treats and put the rest away for another day.

Which provides another opportunity to bring exercise into the picture — make ’em work for that Halloween swag! Run around outside to burn the calories ahead of time, before raiding the candy stash. It’s also an opportunity for generosity, as you suggest how nice it would be to share the bounty with less fortunate children by donating most of the goodies to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

There is a lot more great advice from Sarah Stone, but we won’t repeat it all here, and besides, we have something else to recommend: “Tips from Lucy,” from BlubberBusters, which is basically the same Dr. Pretlow website as Weigh2Rock. The page is about Sugar Addiction Awareness Day (October 30) and Halloween itself, and it’s packed with good information and motivation.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What Color Is Your Halloween? This Year, It’s Eek-O Friendly Green,” Edmonds.Patch.com, 10/02/11
Source: “Should Halloween Be Banned From Schools?,” Care2.com, 10/22/11
Source: “Is there a place for Halloween at school? More schools are saying no,” MLive.com, 10/18/11
Source: “8 Tips to Help Parents Limit the Halloween Candy This Year,” HealthNewsDigest.com, 10/19/11
Image by quinn.anya (Quinn Dombrowski), used under its Creative Commons license.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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