Halloween is here, which to most people means dressing up in scary costumes, buying lollies and snack-size chocolate, decorating your veranda with fake cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns to scare trick-or-treaters!

It is only once a year but Halloween is a time of indulgence … sugar indulgence that is!

It is difficult to estimate how much sugar children consume at Halloween, but a 2016 UK study found that the average child consumes 13,346kJ during Halloween. That’s almost 50000 kJ more that the daily kJ recommendation for an adult, let alone a small child.

An American study found similar results and estimated that the average American child will eat 3 cups of sugar on Halloween. That is 384 grams which equates to 76 teaspoons of sugar, a massive 71 teaspoons over the WHO daily guideline for sugar consumption.

So let’s look at one example. Say a child trick or treats at a couple of houses and collects the following:

  • Two Snakes Alive snakes = 12.3g of sugar
  • 1 roll of Fruit Tingles = 30.9g of sugar
  • Cadbury Crunchie Treat Size = 11.9g sugar
  • 1 Freddo Frog = 8.4g sugar

This small stash of lollies would equal 63.5g of sugar or 15 teaspoons of sugar. But the chances are, they will collect a whole lot more than this!

Most chocolate bars and lollies contain high amounts of sugar, saturated fat and kJ. These are all items that should be eaten in moderation. Indulging in a treat every now and then is ok, but consider the stash your kids will bring home after trick or treating.

Tips to having a healthier Halloween

  1. Ensure your child eats a healthy meal before they trick or treat
  2. Give your child a smaller collection bag and encourage them to only accept one treat per house
  3. Walk as much as you can – see how many streets you can cover in your trick or treat journey
  4. Ration the sugar out over the entire month of November
  5. Buy back the lollies from your children. Try trading lollies for money, movie tickets, ice skating or day at the pool.
  6. Get creative – make healthier treats such as banana ghosts, carrot witch fingers, or give out snacks like sugar free gum, popcorn or trail mix. Or give out toys such as bouncy balls instead of lollies.
  7. Avoid the entire scene and take the children to the movies instead!

The Last word

Although Halloween is all about over indulgence, we really need to consider our sugar intake every single day of the year. The AIHW in December 2016 released data that suggested Australians consume an average of 60g of sugars each day, or the equivalent of 14 teaspoons of white sugar. That is more than double the WHO recommendation.

The majority of these sugars were coming from “extra” foods and drinks with fizzy drinks, confectionery, cakes and muffins being the most likely sugar laden foods consumed.

The group within the Australian population with the highest intake of sugar was teenage males, who on average consumed 18 teaspoons of sugar a day.

See our Director Dr Melissa Stoneham discuss this issue on Channel 9 News here: https://youtu.be/pKsWCbRKP08