There’s no getting around it: if your family celebrates Halloween, your kids will have candy— and lots of it.
Between trick-or-treating, Halloween parties and school events, kids consume up to 3 cups of sugar, or a whopping 7,000 calories on Halloween, a poll by discount site Coupon Follow found.
Of course, with all that sugar, kids are at risk for cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss.
If you plan ahead of time however, there’s a lot you can do to prevent cavities at Halloween and keep your kids’ teeth healthy and strong.
My kids usually come home with a ton of candy especially because many of our neighbors let them take two pieces at a time—that’s in addition to the candy they bring home from school.
I want my kids to enjoy Halloween but they don’t have to overindulge to do so.
In fact, teaching kids how to be healthy eaters includes showing them how to balance healthy fare and treats.
When we return home from trick or treating, my kids get to pick about 10 to 15 pieces of candy to keep, eat a few pieces that night and the rest gets donated.
Last year, I donated the candy to Operation Gratitude but you can also search for a local Halloween buy-back drop off location here.
Police stations, firehouses and churches may accept candy donations or try your school’s parent-teacher organization who may welcome the candy for special events.
You can also set limits on Halloween candy by using smaller treat bags and visiting fewer homes.
When you get home from trick or treating and start to sort through all of your kids’ candy, you’re probably not going to say no when they want the Swedish fish or jawbreakers.
But these types of candy and others like gummies, bubble gum, caramel and sour candy are some of the worst because they’re more likely to stick to the small grooves and crevices in their teeth, even if they brush right away.
Do your best to encourage your kids to pick chocolate instead, which melts and leaves the mouth quicker than sticky or hard candy.
Dark chocolate in particular, has antioxidants that can prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth and cause cavities and gum infections.
Eat Halloween candy at the right time
Instead of skipping dinner, serve a healthy dinner and let your kids eat their candy afterwards.
Saliva production increases during meals, which helps to weaken the acids that cause cavities and rinse food particles away.
Brush and floss
Good oral hygiene is a no-brainer but it’s especially important after overdosing on sugar on Halloween.
After your kids eat their treats, make sure they thoroughly brush all surfaces of their teeth and floss in between each tooth, making sure to get below the gum line.
Swap candy for healthier treats
If you’re having a Halloween party or are asked to bring in a treat for a school event, choose healthier options that are lower in sugar.
Surprisingly, kids may actually enjoy a healthy treat on Halloween. According to a survey by GoGo Squeez, 63 percent of 6 to 12-year-olds said they would actually be happy with getting fruit while trick-or-treating or at a Halloween party.
Some healthier Halloween treats include trail mix, popcorn, pretzels and fresh fruit dipped in chocolate.
Strawberries in particular, are some of the best foods for kids teeth, because the vitamin C they contain can help fight bacteria that lead to cavities and gum disease.
Don’t graze on Halloween candy all day
When Halloween is over and you still have candy left in the house, it can be tempting to add it to your kids’ lunch boxes, let them eat it after school (or sneak a few for yourself!)
Yet letting them snack on candy all day can lead to cavities.
Instead, let them have one piece of candy at home and then brush and floss right away.