Fun size candy no laughing matter

Little Halloween treats can add up to extra pounds

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Halloween tips

Dr. Valerie Weiss, a pediatrician at The Vancouver Clinic, and Sharla Wiest, a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, offer some tips to keep kids from overdoing it on Halloween.

Before trick-or-treating:

• Feed kids a healthy, balanced meal. A full belly means they'll eat fewer sweets.

• Set limits, such as how long kids can trick-or-treat and how many pieces of candy they can eat that night.

• Tell kids they have to walk through the neighborhood -- no car rides from house-to-house.

After Halloween:

• Limit the number of candies kids can eat each day.

• Balance the extra calorie consumption with physical activity, such as taking a walk or playing outside.

• Participate in candy buy-back events at local dentist offices. Some dentists give kids $1 to $2 per pound of Halloween candy.

• Use the candy for other activities, such as experiments ( and educational lessons (counting, alphabetizing, learning colors, etc.).

• Freeze the candy and use it later for things like gingerbread houses, party favors or Easter baskets.

This Halloween, kids' trick-or-treat buckets will undoubtably be filled with all sorts of sweets — chocolate bars, sour candies, hard candies and gummies of all shapes.

But those fun-size candies come with some not-so-fun extras: calories, fat and sugar.

"There's that mind-set of, 'It's small. How bad can it be?'" said Sharla Wiest, a registered dietitian at the Center for Weight Management at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. "It does add up really quickly."

Wiest doesn't suggest parents ban their kids from trick-or-treating — she takes her three kids every year — but she does recommend setting some boundaries and being aware of exactly how much candy kids are eating.

While trick-or-treaters typically collect smaller versions of candy bars — labeled as "fun size," "snack size" or "miniatures" — after a couple houses, they've likely collected enough candy to equal a full-size candy bar.

Take a fun-size packet of M&M's, for example. Each packet contains about 73 calories, 3 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar.

After about three small packages, kids have consumed the equivalent of one regular-size packet of the chocolate candies.

Even the smaller, miniature version of candies add up quickly, Wiest said.

Five miniature Hershey's milk chocolate bars, for example, contain 210 calories, 13 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar — about the same as a full-size Hershey's bar.

"If my kids are eating a full-size candy bar, I'm going to shut them down after that," Wiest said. "But it's Halloween, and they're eating all these minis and fun-size candies. Kids don't hesitate to go beyond that."

And while the holiday lasts just one night, the bag of candy can linger for weeks. Over time, those extra calories can add up, said Dr. Valerie Weiss, a pediatrician at The Vancouver Clinic.

If a child consumes an extra 140 calories per day — about the equivalent of a soda or a couple of fun-size candies — that adds up to an extra 15

pounds a year, Weiss said.

"They may not do that every day for a year, but two months' worth can add up to extra weight," she said.

That's why Wiest lets her kids eat as many sweets as they wish on Halloween night, but after that, the candy goes in the cupboard.

"Afterwards, it's a matter of, 'You can have one or two pieces a day, but that's it,'" she said. "After about a week, the kids have forgotten it's there. At the first sign of forgetting, I get rid of it."

And with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the way — followed by Valentine's Day and Easter — kids will get plenty of sweets without hanging on to their leftover Halloween candy, Wiest said.

"It's constant. It's bombarding," she said. "The treats don't end."