Childhood Obesity Halloween Prep

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Let’s get an early start on Halloween this year, shall we? Before we start buying candy for parties and trick-or-treat, stop and take a breath and plan ahead. Because when a Web post shows up the day before Halloween, no matter how many great alternative suggestions it might contain, it’s already too late. That ship has sailed. The candy is bought and the kids are all salivating in anticipation.

Activists have been at work, and depending on where a family lives and what the surrounding community standards are, especially as regards the school district, most Halloween protocols might already have been reformed. And if a child is an “only,” with any luck at all, parents might be able to delay awareness and expectation for a year or even two. It’s those older siblings who ruin it by tipping off the younger ones about the annual sugar festival.

Sadly, the Halloween issue can even cause conflict between parents. Mom wants to replace candy corn with carrot sticks, and Dad says, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, quit being so uptight and let the kid have a normal childhood. I went trick-or-treating every year, and bringing home a sack of candy never hurt me!” If Dad happens to weigh 250 pounds, the situation gets even more complicated.

From the kids who respond to the Weigh2Rock website, Dr. Pretlow has learned that Halloween is one of the most difficult times of year for them. Its approach can cause anxiety and shame. Or, they may not even know that they want and need help dealing with it.

Here is one idea: If the costume has not been decided on yet, consider some kind of outfit where the child’s mouth is blocked by a duck bill or something. If they’re trick-or treating around the neighborhood, you don’t want their vision impaired. But a mask that covers the lower part of the face is an excellent way to prevent candy from being consumed en route.

Treat shoppers, plan ahead

If your household distributes treats, try to find something so cool that kids won’t mind receiving it instead of sugar bombs. Hardly anyone objects to money. Get a roll of quarters and wrap each one in a twist of orange tissue paper tied with a bit of black ribbon. Or black tissue paper tied with orange ribbon. When departing from tradition by omitting candy, it’s important to stay with the accepted color scheme.

The website of Parents magazine offers a cornucopia of ideas, compiled by Raven Snook, for alternatives to candy, along with suggested sources. A number of companies offer inexpensive trinkets in bulk amounts, like stickers, noisemakers, glow sticks, temporary tattoos, Halloween-themed pencils, finger puppets, crayons, and vampire teeth, to name only a small fraction of the available swag. Or maybe your town has a “dollar store” where the same kind of thing can be found.

Depending on your neighborhood, it might be possible to meet with other parents and promote the sugar-free treat concept. Or skip the trick-or-treat trek altogether, and just have a community party instead, for which everyone contributes sugar-free fun ideas.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Alternative Halloween Treats for Kids,”
Image by QuirkyCookery.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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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