(RxWiki News) With heart disease and obesity on the rise, experts are suggesting that candy might not be the best treat to give trick or treaters this Halloween. Stickers and other non-candy items can be just as fun without the health consequences.
About 17 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight, according to the American Heart Association, and holidays with candy do not aid those rates.
"Keeping you heart health is not a 'trick or treat'."
Donna Arnett, chair of the department of epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, said that obesity is a serious epidemic. She suggests that the public needs to wake up and realize the seriousness of the problem.
She said Halloween alone isn't a major contributor to obesity or overall health, but that behaviors learned from such candy-focused holidays can have an effect.
Arnett estimates that the average child collects candy with 3,500 to 7,000 calories on Halloween night. A child that weighs 100 pounds would have to walk for 44 hours to burn off 7,000 calories.
She doesn't suggest skipping the holiday altogether though. Instead she advises giving out non-candy treats that kids will enjoy such as plastic bat rings or stickers. Quarters are another option since most kids love receiving money.
As an alternative to trick or treating, parents can consider hosting or attending a large community event with costume contests, games and other activities children would enjoy.
If still planning to trick or treat, try making it a fun exercise game by having kids wear a pedometer and tracking who takes the most steps.
“I think with how much kids love using technology and a good sense of competition, counting steps could get them some heart-healthy exercise as well as fun,” Arnett said.
After arriving home, she advises parents to ration out candy so that large amounts are not consumed in one sitting.