October 30, 1995
Web posted at: 7:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Elizabeth Schwartz
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Halloween can be a frightening holiday for parents who worry about their children's stomachs and teeth. As any parent knows, Halloween isn't about spiders or pumpkins, or even costumes. It's really about candy, according to the experts, the kids. (502K QuickTime movie)
And of course, when a child is on the prowl for candy, all those healthy-eating messages from teachers and parents fly right out the window. As one youngster said: "I don't care, I eat it anyway!"
So what are parents to do on Halloween? Should they tell kids not to trick or treat, or perhaps take away some of their candy when they get home?
No, says a pediatric-registered dietitian, parents should just relax. "Let them know that it's a special occasion, a treat. We're not going to have candy every night," said Mary Stuart of Egleston Children's Hospital. If parents withhold candy from children on Halloween, Stuart said, it tends to make them crave it even more.
And believe it or not, a pediatric dentist agrees. In fact, she says candy doesn't really bother her. "It used to. Used to bother me quite a bit," said Dr. Rhea Haugseth of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "But not anymore, not with those new studies that are out that show that candy is not any more harmful to you than any other food is." (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound)
And why, parents may ask, is candy no worse than other any other food? Mainly because sugar, in various forms, exists in all sorts of foods, like fruits and bread. Sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from, according to Haugseth. The body doesn't know the difference and the bacteria in the mouth don't care.
In addition, foods like bagels or raisins stick between teeth. Candies tend to be high in fat, so they're slippery and wash through the mouth more easily. Haugseth suggests parents let kids eat as much as they want Halloween night and then make them brush and floss right away so the food doesn't have time to sit in the mouth.
"A potato chip that sticks to your teeth is going to stay in your mouth longer than a candy bar," Haugseth said. "My recommendation on brushing is that as soon as you are up from any meal or from any snack, go ahead and brush then. This thing of waiting until we go to bed is crazy."
After Halloween night, Haugseth said, parents should let kids have just a few pieces of candy after dinner when their teeth are already under attack from food.
By the way, CNN's informal candy poll says the latest favorites are sour candies, guaranteed to make you shudder, and for the sophisticated set, chocolate-covered espresso beans.
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