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October 24, 2007 > Don't Be a Halloween Junkie

Don't Be a Halloween Junkie

Submitted By Jaime Botello, California Milk Processor Board
Photos By CMPB and Jaime Botello

Halloween is around the corner, and while children ponder whether to be a Transformer or the starlet from High School Musical, parents cringe at the loads of candy their kids are likely to consume - at parties, while trick-or-treating, at the mall and even at school. A survey conducted by KidsHealth.org revealed that most of the 1,200 kids surveyed get at least 50 pieces of candy during Halloween. About 44% of children get more than 100 pieces and, even spookier, 20% said they eat all of their Halloween candy.

To keep the fright where it belongs (in the costumes and not in Jack O' Lantern buckets), the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), the creators of "GOT MILK?", has partnered with health professionals throughout California to share simple strategies to help parents save their kids from becoming "Halloween junkies." As expected, a little milk can be a masked hero that performs great tricks.

"The trick is to plan ahead and bring nutrition back in ways kids are likely to enjoy," says Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, Research Nutrition Specialist and Lecturer at the Department of Nutrition at University of California Davis. "Low-fat pudding made with milk makes a great party treat, and eating a nutritious meal before trick-or-treating will help curb children's appetite for sugar."

Zidenberg-Cherr says an average-size Jack O' Lantern bucket fits approximately 250 pieces of small chocolate bars and candy. That could easily add up to 9,000 calories (4.5 times the recommended daily amount for a grown person!), 200 grams of fat and 1,500 grams of sugar. "While it's normal for kids to eat sweets during Halloween, too much could lead to stomach aches," adds Zidenberg-Cherr.

To help parents cope, the CMPB has developed a 12-step plan that can be found on www.gotmilk.com. Recipes and treats rich in calcium, vitamins and nutrients are also available on the site. Halloween tips include planning in advance tips such as talking to teachers, feeding your child a healthy dinner before they go out for Halloween, and setting limits on the amount of candy they eat that night. "As a parent of a three-year-old daughter, I am concerned about the lack of nutrition in our children's diets, especially during the holidays," says California Milk Processor Board Executive Director Steve James. "With the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes among kids, parents must exert their power to prevent these diseases at home."

A Mayo Clinic article published last year reports that one-third of children in this country are overweight or at-risk of becoming overweight, totaling to about 25 million kids. That number has doubled for children ages 6 - 11, and has tripled for teenagers over the last two decades. In the Hispanic community, a 2006 National Council of La Raza Fact Sheet reports that 39.3% of Mexican-American children (the largest Hispanic group in the US) ages 6 - 11 are overweight and 23.7% are obese - outnumbering African-Americans and Whites. Furthermore, a 2005 article in the Journal of Clinical Diabetes reports that there are 206,000 reported cases of diabetes among people ages 20 and under.

"These statistics show why proper nutrition is paramount, even on Halloween," says Zidenberg-Cherr. "Drinking low-fat milk is proven to strengthen teeth, prevent cavities, and boost calcium, vitamin D and potassium levels." Experts recommend that children drink at least four, eight-ounce glasses of low or non-fat milk everyday. To get healthy, kid-friendly Halloween recipes and a copy of the "12-Step Program to Help Parents Cope" visit www.gotmilk.com.

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