Trick or Treat? Weighing Up the Sugar in a Trick or Treat Bag

An occasional lolly or chocolate every now and then is unlikely to do any harm to you or your child’s health but Halloween can often be a challenging time for parents trying to limit their children’s intake of sugar and food additives. Every child will consume a different amount of sugar at Halloween, but a 2016 UK study found that the average child consumes 13,346kJ during Halloween [1]. That’s almost 5,000 kJ more that the daily energy recommendation for an adult, let alone a small child. An American study found similar results and estimated that the average American child will eat the equivalent of 384 grams which equates to roughly 91 teaspoons of sugar.

This is in contrast to the WHO Guidelines which states a children’s free sugar intake should range between 320kJ/day and 440kJ/day, depending on age and gender – this is the equivalent of 19g and 26g of sugar a day [2]. Based on the studies above, that means that a child can consume 85 teaspoons more than the WHO daily guideline for sugar consumption on the one night.

Don’t distress too much if your child has a sugar high on Halloween

But don’t despair too much if your child consumes a lot in the single night, as Halloween only comes around once a year. Rather than worrying about what they eat that day, try to reduce their daily sugar consumption. It’ll be more helpful to their long-term health.

A high intake of sugar, albeit over time, is linked to an increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a staggering 23% of Australian children aged 2–4 are considered to be overweight or obese [3]. Research has also consistently shown that a high sugar intake is associated with increased risk of dental caries (cavities) in children. Sugar is the preferred food for harmful bacteria in the mouth that produce acids, which can destroy tooth enamel and lead to cavities.

So, it will be much more beneficial in the long run to make lollies and other sweet products more of a one off and provide healthier options throughout the day. This way your children are more likely to understand how sugar-laden snacks should only have a small part in their overall diet.

Tips & Tricks

However, there are a couple of tips you can try to reduce your kid’s sugar intake on Halloween. These include:
• Ensure your child eats a healthy meal before they trick or treat
• Give your child a smaller collection bag and encourage them to only accept one treat they really want from each house. A benefit of this is that they are more likely to be more satisfied with their overall collection
• Walk as much as you can – see how many streets you can cover in your trick or treat journey
• Get creative – make healthier treats such as banana ghosts, carrot witch fingers, or give out snacks like popcorn or puffs
Concerned about additives in lollies?

If you are also concerned about the additives present in lollies and other sweet treats, have a look at our recent articles on Why Whole Kids Steers Clear of Food Additives and The Source of Ingredients in Our Food.

1. Public health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia.
2. World Health Organisation (WHO) Guideline on sugars intake for adults and children, 2015.
3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

About the Author

Diana Austen works for Whole Kids as a Nutrition Advisor. With a Master’s degree in nutrition, she has over six years’ experience working with a range of companies on innovation, strategic insight and regulatory and scientific affairs. Fascinated by the nutritional requirements of infants and young children she focuses specifically on products for this age group.

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