The amount of candy consumed on Halloween may seem downright spooky, especially if you're a dentist, nutritionist or health-conscious parent.
About 4% of all candy consumed in this country occurs on that one day, Oct. 31, says Harry Balzer, the chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, which does market research on eating trends.
Almost every child in the USA will have candy on Halloween day, and about half of the adults will eat some, he says. That compares to 24% of all adults and kids who have candy on a typical day, he says.
Adults prefer chocolate candy over anything else. Kids eat four hard and chewy candies for every one eaten by adults, Balzer says.
Another finding: On a typical day, 10% of adults and kids have a cookie, but on Halloween 14% have one, he says.
So how can you enjoy Halloween candy for a few days without being haunted by it — or extra pounds — for months to come?
Many fun-sized candy bars pack 60 to 100 calories each, so having several a day for weeks can add up to weight gain or derail weight loss.
If you eat candy in addition to everything else you're already consuming, you'll probably gain weight, says registered dietitian Sarah Krieger, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and a mother of three in St. Petersburg, Fla. So while you're enjoying some Halloween candy, she suggests cutting back on something else that's sweet such as sugary drinks, cookies or granola bars.
Krieger advises parents to talk to their kids about the plan for all the Halloween candy. "It is sad to hear parents arguing with their kids about how much candy the kids eat when the parents are the ones taking them trick or treating. Whatever your plan is, it needs to be discussed before you go out."
On Halloween evening, she serves a healthy meal to her kids, ages 10, 7 and 4. That way they don't munch on their candy along the way, and they have the energy to walk, she says. "When they come back, they look at their stash and do some swapping and trading with their siblings, which is part of the fun.
"They share the coconut and dark chocolate candy with me, and my spouse picks out his favorites. The rest goes in the charity bag — including the taffy."
She draws the line on sticky, chewy candies. "The dentist tells them not to eat any candy that's too sticky or chewy because it impacts the sealants on their teeth which prevents cavities. They know to hand the sticky stuff over to me. I want them to have great teeth."
Keith Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, agrees that most kids get more candy than they really like and should only keep their favorites and give the rest away. Some of his other suggestions:
• Practice the "Rule of One." When it comes to high-calorie foods, you won't go wrong if you allow one small treat a day. That might be a fun-sized candy bar. Portion control is essential with all candy. Divvy up the favorite candy into 100-calorie portions and keep it to that amount per day, Ayoob says.
• Let kids enjoy gum. Any kind, even the ones with sugar. Bubble gum is a favorite because it's more elastic. It's also only 5 to 15 calories apiece and keeps kids' mouths busy for longer.
• Remember safety and sanitation first. If it's not wrapped, it's gone, he says.
• Clean house. Get the Halloween candy out of the house after a week or two. Work is an obvious place, where it can be further shared by many people, he says.
Percentage by age of those eating candy on Halloween:
2-5 years old, 73%
6-8 years old, 87%
9-12 years old. 67%
13-17 years old, 50%
Adult men (18 and older), 54%
Adult women (18 and older): 46%
Source: NPD Group