As Halloween rolls in, dentists across the country cringe at the prospect of so much sugar saturating so many eager little trick-or-treaters. Nearly 80 percent of dentists say they hand out chocolate to trick-or-treaters, while nearly a quarter offer no treats at all, according to a survey conducted by Suzanne Heckenlaible, executive director of the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation.
Chocolate is the popular choice of dentists because it dissolves quickly in the mouth, decreasing the amount of time sugar is in contact with teeth, Hekenlaible said in the report.
“What we find with tooth decay is the continued amount of time the sugar reacts with the bacteria in the mouth can cause tooth decay,” Heckenlaible said. “The chewy, sticky kind of candy does not dissolve quickly in the mouth, gets stuck between the molars and in between your teeth. Those are concerns for us.”
Hekenlaible suggests parents make sure their child has a good, full, healthy meal before heading out to go trick-or-treating: “That will potentially reduce the amount of temptation to consume as much candy as they really want to," she said.
"This is an ideal time of year, leading into the major holidays, to add structure to family meals and make treats scheduled so they're not available all day," Melinda Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Los Angeles Times. "Halloween alone won't make kids fat or instill a lifetime of poor eating habits," she adds, "but it can be a great time to implement some healthier habits."
Stocking up at the last minute and buying less appetizing candy can lessen the likelihood that everyone samples the candy before the big day, Johnson and the Academy suggested.
Have your kids separate their candy into "like" and "don't like" piles upon their return home, Johnson told Los Angeles Times. "Immediately pack up the candy in the 'don't like' pile and give it away."
Johnson also suggests considering a candy buyback.
"I know of lots of dentists who buy Halloween candy from their patients," Johnson said. For more information, visit Halloweencandybuyback.com or Operationgratitude.com for information on sending sweets to military personnel overseas.
Don't let the small sizes trick you and don't hide the evidence, Brian Wansink, Cornell University professor and author of Mindless Eating, told ABC News. In a study he conducted, study participants ate about half as much candy when the wrappers were in sight.
Huffington Post suggested checking the ingredient list on the nutrition label when evaluating candies. Look for "ingredients we know, recognize, can situate in some part of the plant or animal kingdom, and can pronounce," David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, told Huffington Post.
Katz also suggested sticking to foods with five or fewer ingredients, which usually have less perservatives, sugars and other additives.
Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.
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