By Kelsey Albright, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow
Halloween and candy are like two peas in a pod. It wasn’t always this way though; before candy started dominating this spooky holiday, an assortment of goodies ranging from popcorn balls and cookies to fruit were commonplace treats for trick-or-treaters. As the holiday progressed, it made more sense to hand out candy with its ease of preparation, pre-packaged safety, and long shelf life.
Candy embodies a kind of magic. The forbidden fruit of our childhoods, candy represents a nostalgic reminder of something simple and so irresistibly sweet. It was more than just the candy though; it was the costume and the trading and staying up a little later than usual. Most children and adults can relate to these memories, we remember Halloween as one of those days that was bound to be great. I worry that with childhood obesity on the rise and the ever growing vigilance of some parents, these memories could be forever altered. To many, candy carries an inescapable black mark as a food to always avoid, but in my opinion, that shouldn’t be so.
Candy is honest. It doesn’t masquerade as something that’s healthy or has vitamins, it’s bad for you and everyone knows it. I present you with an age old concept that nutritionists come back to again and again: everything in moderation. Yes, children need to eat fruits and vegetables; they need to drink milk for strong bones. Many parents realize these things and it’s a constant struggle to inform those that don’t but that doesn’t mean that candy is out of the question.
It’s important that children occasionally have access to treats; otherwise the concept that candy is a forbidden fruit, something they always want and can never have, may be taken to extremes later in life. I look around me and I see how confused society is about food, frequently falling on one side of the healthy eating spectrum or the other, but it’s far simpler than we make it out to be. Indulgence is a vital part of a balanced diet and it makes it far easier to choose nutrient dense food items the other 95% of the time. So this Halloween let your kids have some candy, just don’t let them have the whole bag!