McMillan: Halloween needn't be unhealthy

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photoSherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training.

There's less than a month to Halloween and all the stores are stocked with Halloween candy and decorations. I love dressing up, but this holiday is not one of the healthiest, that's for sure. The last thing our kids need is more sugar, fat and a candy binge! So how can you promote moderation and a healthy diet without coming off as the world's worst parents?!

Be different: Every parent wants to be the "coolest" but that's not always the best route in terms of a healthy lifestyle. The American Dietetic Association offers the following suggestions for nutritious Halloween goodies. You may not be the favorite Halloween house on your block but at least you can feel good about the fact that you're not sending your neighbors' kids into sugar oblivion!

• Mini rice cereal bites.

• Packages of trail mix.

• Cereal or energy bars.

• Small boxes of raisins.

• Small packages of dried fruit.

• Sugar-free gum.

• Mini juice boxes.

Does it have to be candy? Many kids would enjoy just as much some cool, new Halloween pencils or pens, spooky stickers, tattoos, or spider rings.

Don't buy it now: You may be tempted to get organized and purchase your Halloween candy now. But that's the worse thing you can do because most likely you will all eat it before Halloween and will have to go and purchase more. Purchase your Halloween candy on Halloween day to avoid an excess consumption of calories before the actual holiday. If you do feel the need to buy your Halloween candy early, put it in the garage on the highest shelf or in the attic. Or store it at your neighbor's house -- just make sure you tell them they can't eat any of it either!

Control consumption: If you leave it up to the kids, they'll have half their candy eaten before bed-time on Halloween night! Instead, sit down with their stash, and separate it into small-sized snack pouches that limit how much candy they have per day. Not that we're saying that kids need candy every day but at least it's a start! Explain to them clearly how much and when candy can be consumed. For example, you may set limits that prevent candy intake before bed or in the morning before school. But you may allow a small snack bag only after they eat their nutritious lunch.

In Oregon and Washington, about 25 percent of kids are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight and this number is increasing every year. As parents and teachers, we need to limit children's consumption of candy year-round so now is a good time to discuss the benefits of a healthy diet and the ramifications of an unhealthy one.

I also give away a lot of the kids' candy because they just don't need it all! You can donate it to shelters or dentists offices will often trade in candy.

Move it to lose it: The rise in childhood obesity is partly due to the fact that kids are just not moving their bodies as much as they need to. Computers, video games, TV and the fact that only 54.8 percent of kids participate in daily PE is wreaking havoc on our kids' health. I like that Halloween gets families outdoors walking the neighborhood, but can't we do that on more nights other than just Halloween and without the candy? So take this time as an opportunity to promote an active lifestyle and get them outside for a hike, a long walk or a bike ride. Their bodies will thank you for it!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com.