With Halloween as the official start of the holiday candy season, HISD Nutrition Services Dietitians Julia Jarrell, Alberto Garcia, and Nan Cramer are teaching healthy Halloween classes to elementary school students to help them become responsible trick-or-treaters.
The dietitians teach strategies and techniques to students to prevent overeating candy. Children can consume more than 700 grams of sugar on Halloween night if they go unsupervised, and high amounts of sugar can cause stomachaches, headaches, and cavities.
“Teaching a lesson that includes an engaging activity enhances the children’s learning and increases the likelihood of behavior change,” Garcia said.
Students are instructed to eat less of their candy to make it last longer.
“We show them to share their candy with their family, friends and classmates,” Garcia said. “We also recommend picking toys instead of sweets when trick-or-treating. These two suggestions will make Halloween more fun.”
The Healthy Halloween class has fun activities that further demonstrate the effects of high consumption of sweets. Smart versus wild trick-or-treaters compete in a relay race. The smart trick-or-treater collects toys and the wild trick-or-treater collects candy with the added burden of carrying a pumpkin that represents high sugar consumption. This demonstrates that children who choose candy more often than not are at a disadvantage.
HISD dietitians recommend students eat a healthy meal before going trick or treating. The right type of foods can give students good energy to be out trick or treating longer.
“The goal of the classes are to teach students the consequences of overeating candy and that there are alternatives to sweet treats at Halloween,” Cramer said.