Brock profs offer tips on handling Halloween’s scary health effects

When it comes to children’s health around Halloween, education and a bit of planning can go a long way, says a Brock University expert.

Kimberley Zonneveld, Assistant Professor in the Centre for Applied Disability Studies, recommends parents talk to their kids well in advance of Halloween Day.

“Don’t wait until the day of. Parents should be talking to their kids about what’s going to happen and what the expectations are,” says Zonneveld, whose research focuses on the food choices of young children.

She suggests giving kids advance warning that Halloween won’t be a “free-for-all.”

“Let them know that they can have some candy each day, but I also recommend increasing the intake of healthy foods. Talk to kids about what food is — that it’s fuel and that sugary foods aren’t good fuel,” she says. 

As for the candy cache that might result from a successful night of trick-or-treating, Zonneveld says parents should be in control.

“Kids don’t know enough about the negative health effects of too much sugar to make healthy food choices, so I personally think it’s important for parents to be in control,” she says.

Andrea Josse, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Department of Kinesiology agrees, saying that parents need to “pull back the reins and be in charge of giving the candy over.”

“I’m all about the mindset of everything in moderation. I don’t like to withhold candy from the kids, because they find it such an exciting time,” she says. “I think within moderation, they can still enjoy the fruits of their labour of walking around to get the Halloween candy.”

However, Josse says she sees nothing wrong with discreetly shrinking the pile. This includes parents going through the candy stash to remove what may be unsafe, such as hard candies without sticks for young children. 

“I think parents should dispose of some of it. Where I live, there are a lot of pediatric dentists nearby and some of them will switch the candy out for a toy. Parents can do this too.

“Halloween to me is not just about eating all the candy you can. There are certainly teachable moments around it,” Josse says.

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