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'Fat Letters' To Trick-Or-Treaters? Get Real (Also, Halloween Health Tips)

This article is more than 6 years old.

I am typically the Halloween Scrooge. Sure, I love the costumes and neighborhood rituals, but the furious sugar obsession and frenetic hoarding of candy (whatever happened to apples?) makes me crazy.

But not, apparently, as crazy as a woman in North Dakota who apparently plans to hand out "fat letters" to chubby trick-or-treaters who show up at her door, according to a report on Valley News Live.

The news site posts what it says is a copy of the (still anonymous) woman's Halloween letter which says, in part:

"Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."

Why bother trying to make a public health statement on Halloween? The anti-fat-kid letter writer tells a local N.D. radio station, "I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight... I think it's just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just 'cause all the other kids are doing it."

halloween candyWhile I agree with the sentiment here, the Halloween finger-wagging (if true) seems a bit misplaced. I'm not thrilled about my kids getting high on candy corn either, but let's get some perspective here people: it's only one day.

Still, for those who want to minimize the kids' sugar hangover Friday, I'm reprinting our post "Five Halloween Health Tips" written by Boston-area mom and health and wellness coach Nina Manolson:

1. Start The Evening Full

While it’s tempting to just grab a slice of pizza and then run out for trick-or-treating, Nina says it’s critical to feed your kids a generous, protein-rich dinner on Halloween night, including a healthy sweet dessert, like baked apple with cinnamon or a fruit smoothie. This, hopefully, will leave them less vulnerable to the Tootsie Rolls and Laffy Taffy lurking outside.

2. Trading, Sorting And Counting

After collecting vats of candy and calling it a night, it’s time to get down to work. First, Nina has her kids divide their sugar-laden cache into two groups, which she calls, loosely, “Food” and “Nonfood.”

“Nonfood” is anything with high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fat and anything that looks like plastic. (You know those rubbery candies shaped like hamburgers and ice cream cones? Nina says she’s kept one of those around for six years now, jumped on it, kicked it around and it still looks exactly the same.)

After dumping the “Nonfood” items in the trash, and amassing the “Food” (which ends up being mostly chocolate bars) the children go to bed. They re-group the next day for “The Taste Test.” That’s where the family pulls out multiple chopping boards and cuts tiny slivers from every type of candy and tastes each one. “We rate them, then we decide which the top candies are,” Nina says. “And then everything goes in the garbage.” She used to consider giving it all away but then thought: “No one should be eating this.”

3. Consider The Candy Fairy

The deal with The Candy Fairy is this: Kids agree to part with their candy, and place it under their pillow. Overnight, the fairy takes the candy and leaves a gift — something between a pack of silly bands and an iPad, depending on the child and the family. For kids over 7 or 8, you move to “Fair Trade,” Nina says, that is, Candy for Cash.

4. Don’t Give Out Candy

(This one blew my mind because my kids so love handing out candy to other kids. But it does make sense.)

Nina is emphatic here: “You can’t give out candy,” she says. “You’ve got to walk the talk. If I don’t want my kids eating candy, why should I give candy to other kids?” There are some groovy alternatives out there: Halloween-themed pencils, ghoulish eraser tops, vampire tattoos, and other choices. Oriental Trading has many of these items online.

5. Don’t Go Alternative Without Warning

Ease kids into the idea of the anti-candy Halloween weeks, not hours, before the day arrives, otherwise they may rebel. Framing is everything here. For instance, you can excite kids by suggesting, “Let’s put in an order to The Candy Fairy!” or get them really psyched about The Taste Test or ordering scary tattoos. Remember, you’re not relinquishing Halloween, just reinventing it. “It’s not like we don’t do Halloween here,” Nina says. On the contrary, “it’s like a national holiday — we all dress up, we always carve a pumpkin. And you know what? Almost every parent comes up to me and says ‘Thank you so much for not giving my kids more candy.’”

(My husband’s response: “Do the kids thank her too?”)

Parents, have you found ways to de-emphasize candy on Halloween (without handing out "fat" letters)? Please add your own tips to the list.

This program aired on October 31, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.

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