By: Jamie Jeffrey, M.D., FAAP
The nights are cooler and fall is on its way. For a lot of families this is a perfect time to increase their outside physical activity. The cool breeze is perfect for a family walk or trip to a nearby park. That is the good news. But… Fall also brings a flurry of holidays and celebrations. For health conscious families, this can be a tough time to keep the little ones (and ourselves!) on track with nutritious choices.
We start with Halloween followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. More than ever, these holidays seem to revolve around food, food and more food to celebrate the holiday. The traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday are loaded with food choices saturated with fat, sugar and salt. It makes it really tough to stay healthy. But one of the worse holidays for our kids is Halloween. Candy. Candy. Candy. Candy at school, candy at Grandma’s house and treat-or-treat at the mall AND in their own neighborhood. Every kid knows which neighbor hands out full size candy bars. Most kids now are seen carrying pillow cases. This is a “supersized” plastic pumpkin. Like a whole pumpkin full of candy isn’t enough for our kids!
On average, each piece of bite sized candy treat contains about two teaspoons of sugar. Multiple sources estimate an average kid will eat 10-15 treats before they get home from the trick-or-treat festivities. Do the math. That would be 20-30 teaspoons of sugar. Hmmm. No wonder they can’t seem to settle down and get to sleep. Can you say, “the energizer bunny?” No wonder my waiting room is full of kids with tummy aches the morning after trick-or-treat. I am always surprised that parents seem “shocked” and have an “ah-ha” moment when I mention that the belly ache could be from too much candy.
So how can Choosy help? Choosy teaches kids to move to music and use movement vocabulary. Halloween could be such a fun and creative time for costumes and fun games and activities. I say TRASH the STASH. Candy corn and bite size candy bars will be everywhere! Preschool, school and family parties should be based on movement and fun…the way Choosy would like it! Plus, a typical child will have to walk 11 miles to stay energy neutral for all the calories and sugar they consume.
- Pick safe, comfortable and brightly colored costumes. Make sure kids can safely walk in their costumes and can adequately see if the costume has a wig or mask.
- Carry a flash light and add reflective tape to the costume or trick-or-treat bag.
- An adult should always accompany their children and go to fully lite houses of neighbors that you know.
- Eat a full, healthy dinner with lots of veggie options and lean protein like grilled chicken, turkey or seafood before trick-or-treating activities. Serve water with dinner to make sure everyone is well hydrated.
- Make a family rule of eating candy only after inspection at home or only 1-2 items until you get home.
- Try to ration treats and consider swapping for cash or other non-food rewards. You could also donate the candy to a local charity (even though I sometimes feel guilty about this one!).
Medical Director, CAMC Medical Center
Director of Healthy Kids Pediatric Weight Management Program
Dr. Jeffrey is a pediatrician and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at WVU School of Medicine-Charleston Division. She is also the Medical Director of HealthyKids Wellness and Weight Management Program (HealthyKids) at CAMC. She received her medical degree from Marshall University School of Medicine and completed a pediatric residency at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio. She supervised pediatric residents for the past 20 years. She lives in Charleston with her husband and four fantastic children, ages 10,15,19, and 21.
As Director for KEYS 4 HealthyKids, she works with the community to meet the mission to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on policy, system and environmental strategies to enable more sustainable change. This will hopefully provide the system and landscape improvements where the HEALTHY choice is the EASY choice.
Look behind the white coat and you’ll see more than a pediatrician in Dr. Jamie Jeffrey.
“I’m a fixer,” she says. “I love to find problems because then I can go to work on fixing them.”