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Kids Talk About: Halloween Candy

Kids love Halloween, and why not? You get to dress up in a cool costume and go around the neighborhood filling your bag or plastic pumpkin with delicious candy. Then it's time to head home with that heavy haul of chocolate and other sweet treats.

But what happens next? Do you eat a lot that night? Or maybe your mom or dad says "Whoa!" and tells you to pick a certain number of pieces.

Pumpkin-O-Meter

We asked about 1,200 boys and girls about their Halloween haul. Here's what they said:

But kids aren't always in charge when it comes to how much candy they get to eat — half said their parents put limits on how much they can eat.

Limits

Kids who have limits were allowed to eat as little as one piece a week to as many as 10 or 20 a day, though not all at the same time. Sometimes the rules are complicated.

Juliet, 10, is allowed to eat one-eighth of her candy on Halloween night and then 12 pieces a day after that. "I would say that if I could choose, I would have one-sixth of my candy on Halloween night. Then, 20 pieces every day after that," Juliet said.

The rules at Sophie's house are relaxed on Halloween, but after that she's not allowed to eat nearly as much as Juliet. "On Halloween, I can eat quite a bit, but not until I get home," said Sophie, 11. "After that it's usually one piece a day."

Kris, 8, says she doesn't have any limits on Halloween, but there's a big catch. "That night we can eat whatever we want and then Mom throws it away," Kris said.

Pete, 10, goes by the limits his mom sets. She gives a lot of his Halloween candy back out to trick-or-treaters that same night. "She leaves a small bowl for us to eat, which we do in 2 days," he said.

Allison, 12, has limits, too — seven pieces on Halloween and two per day after that. But she doesn't keep all that candy for herself. "After Halloween, I separate what I want to keep (20-30 pieces) and donate the rest, in little baggies, to the homeless shelter or soup kitchen," she said.

No Limits

Though most kids (60%) said parents should limit kids' candy intake, plenty of kids (50%) said they did not have any limits. But more than 60% of kids said they voluntarily set their own limits. Why? To avoid getting fat, feeling sick, or getting cavities in their teeth.

Thalia, 12, said she wants to be a healthy kid, especially because she's on a competitive swim team. "I'm kind of a 'Don't eat too much junk or you'll get fat' sort of person," she said. "I don't eat a lot of candy. I know what candy can do to your teeth and body, so I have limits on how much I should eat."

Nathan, 13, said his parents think he's old enough to decide for himself. "I am a teen and I know how much I want to eat," he said.

Ally, 12, sets her own limits and then listens to her body when it comes to deciding how much candy to eat. "I say to myself, only a certain amount of pieces (for example, five) and then I have to stop. Or if I start getting full, I stop also," she said.

Ooh, That Sick Feeling

If you've ever eaten too much Halloween candy, you probably remember the ooky feeling in your stomach. Of more than 1,200 kids who responded to our survey, more than half (625) said too much Halloween candy had made them sick or caused other problems.

Here's what they remember:

"I felt sick all night," said Zachary, 9.

"I got a huge headache when I was 7 years old after eating way too much candy and had to go to sleep early," said Angelica, 11.

"My whole body felt really bad, I laid in bed until I felt better, and didn't do that again," said Aliyah, 10.

Shamyia, 10, said the top reason she puts limits on how much Halloween candy she eats is because she doesn't want to get sick. When you hear what happened to her, you'll understand why.

"When I had eaten extremely too much candy, I puked on my dad when I answered the door. Then the next 2 days, I had to stay home and miss a field trip to Six Flags!"

But maybe making a mistake like that can teach kids an important lesson — that it can be better to eat a little of your favorite foods, like candy, instead of enormous amounts.

Some food experts think that kids need to figure out what their limits are — what it feels like to be full. When they do, they can adjust how much they eat so they don't overdo it. For instance, if you've ever done something like eating six snow cones at a picnic, you probably decided to never do that again!

Which Way Is Right?

Maybe you're wondering which way is the best way and if your parents are doing the right thing. Well, there's no simple answer. Parents don't have a secret rulebook that tells them what to do, so they usually just try to make the best decision they can.

Parents will make that decision based on what a kid is like. If a kid is the type to be reasonable and stop eating candy before he or she gets sick, maybe the kid gets to decide how much to eat.

But for kids who might overdo it, their parents may need to step in and set some limits. Parents should have a good idea of what their kids have collected and how much candy they're eating.

Parents also need to be role models. Role models about candy? Yep. Kids often follow in their parents' footsteps, so if your mom or dad doesn't pig out on Halloween, you're more likely to set limits, too.

Candy Alternatives

While some Halloween candy is fun, quite a few kids were interested in getting non-candy treats on Halloween night. About half of kids said they'd like to get pencils, stickers, and other small items.

"I think people should give out fun markers/crayons, stickers, pencils, and anything else they think kids will like," said Hannah, 11. "They should do this because it prevents kids (somewhat) from becoming overweight and it lasts longer than candy."

Latavia, 10, whose favorite candy is Laffy Taffy, suggested toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash.

Teeth were also on Olga's mind. She has braces and can't eat sticky, hard, nutty, or gooey candy. If she has Skittles, she said she has to suck on them. Here's how Olga answered our question about whether more people should give out stuff other than candy: "YES!!!! YEEEESSSS!!! I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH I CAN ENFORCE THIS, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE that other stuff. I love people who appreciate that I have braces; :-). Whatever they give me, I'm thankful that it's not candy."

But the other half of the kids we surveyed said keep the candy coming on Halloween. Tani, 10, put it simply. "Candy rocks!" she said.

Related Articles
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K    What's the Right Weight for Me?
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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