Avoiding The Sugar High This Halloween

It’s that time of year again. Giant pumpkins are for sale at your local supermarket, people are stocking up on cobwebs and broomsticks, and costumes are being finalised. Halloween is here!

This year it won’t just be your regular sugar indulgence though, as confectionary and soft drink producers both compete to fill your shopping baskets with sugar.

Soft drink brand Fanta has this year gone all out, covering their products in Halloween imagery, and developing a Halloween-themed Facebook campaign which encourages kids to put a can of soft drink in their trick or treating bag.

Given that this week Cancer Council Victoria launched a new campaign to increase awareness of the link between obesity and 13 types of cancer, and how sugary drinks add the most extra sugar to our diets, Fanta’s campaign seems to be a bit rotten. Fanta has just over 10 teaspoons of sugar so that’s equivalent to around 40 grams of sugar per 375ml can.

On average Australians already consume 60g of sugar per day, more than double the recommended 25g, with young people likely to consume even more than this, averaging 92g of sugar a day!

Sugary drinks contribute to more than 32% of this intake, with a can of Fanta alone contributing 11.3g of sugar to the diet.

A scary night for Aussie kids

Although it’s difficult to estimate how much sugar will be consumed on Halloween by Australian kids, a 2016 UK study found that the average child consumes 13,346kJ during Halloween. That’s almost 5,000 kJ more than 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.

The supermarkets are only fuelling this issue, this year selling “funsize” chocolate and lollies for half price, scary given one of these “funsized” items can have up to 10.5g of sugar, a large chunk of your recommended daily sugar intake.

If your child were to stop at a number of houses and pick up a few of these items they would quickly be over their recommended sugar intake, that isn’t even taking in to account the extra saturated fat and kilojoules they are consuming.

Although it’s fine to have these treats every now and then, it isn’t likely moderation will be in mind when your kids return home with a bucket full of chocolates, lollies and possibly even soft drink.

So how do you make your Halloween a healthy one?

  • If you are going trick or treating, send your kids out with a small bag and encourage them to only take one treat per house.
  • Fill up on a nutritious meal before you head out, that way there will be less room for snacks.
  • Walk as much as you can – see how many streets you can cover in your trick or treat journey
  • Ration the sugar out over the entire month of November
  • Buy back the lollies from your children. Try trading lollies for money, movie tickets, ice skating or day at the pool.
  • Get creative, there are plenty of fun Halloween recipes online which can help create a healthy Halloween.
  • Give out toys instead of lollies, bouncy balls, glow sticks or bubble blowers are a great treat.
  • Avoid the entire scene and take the children to the movies instead!

Although Halloween can be a fun night for you and the kids, we need to keep in mind just how much we are indulging. As we know Australians are already consuming far more sugar than we need to, and this is contributing to increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This sugary habit is also affecting our kids, increasing overweight and obesity, and leading to rising tooth decay.

Given the sugar causing these problems largely comes from “extra foods” such as sugary drinks, confectionery, cakes and muffins, it’s important we prevent any more of these foods making their way in to our homes.

So, why not give Halloween a miss.

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