Sweet tips for controlling candy consumption

Easter guidelines to keep kids from eating too many empty calories

You were feeling generous when you bought those gargantuan Easter baskets, expecting that would be more than enough candy for the entire family. But you didn’t count on Easter baskets from the grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles. Nor did you anticipate the spring fling at school, with cupcakes, jelly beans, and candied eggs leftover to take home.

You may be wondering if the sugar glut will give rise to a crop of cavities, or at the very least result in a few tummy aches. The good news is one day with an overflow of candy won’t do them long-term harm, experts say. But even with the inevitable excess, parents can moderate the sugar effects and rein in the overflow with some simple planning. That might mean regulating portions on most other days.

“Candy is called a ‘treat’ for a reason,” says Jill Harbison, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Winter Haven’s Bond Diabetes Clinic. “One small jelly bean is 4 calories. This allows children ages four to eight and girls who are nine to 13-years old thirty small jelly beans for the day.”

Harbison says candy and foods like soda, cakes, cookies, and donuts provide empty calories, or calories that don’t add nutrients needed daily by our bodies. It’s easy to rack up those empty calories with goodies like 12 mini eggs, with 190 calories, or a one-ounce marshmallow egg, with 120 calories.

“One can quickly realize consumption of empty calories may be greater than the above recommendations,” Harbison says. “Remember, extra calories from any source can lead to health consequences.”

She cites choosemyplate.gov guidelines, limiting children ages four to eight to 120 empty calories, girls and boys who are nine to 13-years old with 120 and 160 calories respectively, and girls and boys 14 to 18 with 160 and 265 calories respectively.

Empty calories come not only from candy and other sweets, but also from fats. So that means even a cup of fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt has an estimated 152 empty calories out of 250, according to choosemyplate.gov. By comparison, three medium fried chicken wings with skin and batter ingredients have an estimated 382 empty calories out of a total of 478, and one slice of two-layer chocolate cakes brings 315 empty calories out of a total of 408, choosemyplate.gov shows.

When someone is diabetic, his or her body is not able to use carbohydrates normally. “Yes, candy is a carbohydrate and can be a part of a diabetic’s intake,” she advises. “The amount of carbohydrates needed daily is individually planned to meet the changing needs for children.”

One way to curb excessive candy consumption is to feed the children dinner or a healthy snack before the treats appear. Then make a thorough teeth brushing mandatory. “If you eat candy on an empty stomach you’ll crave it more. Have candy with a glass of milk,” says Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Extra candy can be given to a local food bank or nursing home. Or if it’s not eaten a month later, it can be discarded.

To put together a healthier Easter basket, Harbison suggests nuts, fruit roll-ups, sugar-free gum, or Tic-tacs. “Of course, traditional Easter candy should be part of the Easter basket,” she says. “Parents can add items beside candy they know their children will like.”



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