Halloween is a fun time for children to dress up in costumes and eat lots of candy. This year, think about your child's health — particularly kids with braces or food allergies or those who are overweight — before buying that first chocolate ghost or making popcorn balls.
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The American Association of Orthodontists is encouraging parents to make braces-friendly recipes for Halloween treats at home. According to the association, orthodontics patients often take liberties and eat treats that can damage their braces and possibly prolong treatment. The AAO has teamed with celebrity chef Michael Chiarello to provide recipes so children with braces can enjoy Halloween treats.
Chiarello, a host on the Food Network and the Fine Living Network, has created some treats for children with orthodontia at www.braces.org.
Halloween also can be a tricky time for the 3 million American children with food allergies. With more than 30 "may contain"-type messages on ingredient labels, parents are becoming increasingly confused and frustrated about figuring out which treats are safe to eat, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
The experts at FAAN advise parents to avoid products with "may contain" labeling statements. Lab analyses have shown that some products with those warnings really do contain allergens. The organization urges consumers with food allergies to follow some simple steps for a safe Halloween:
■ Read ingredient statements for all candy.
■ Give the treats your child cannot eat to other children.
■ Have safe treats at home to trade for candies that can't be eaten.
More information for parents is available online at www.foodallergy.org/halloween.html.
Go low-fat and sugar-free
Parents face another problem on Halloween if their children are overweight. There are plenty of nutritious goodies to hand out to the little goblins, such as low-fat granola bars, packs of sugar-free chewing gum, boxes of raisins, packages of reduced-fat cheese and peanut butter crackers, small bags of pretzels or popcorn, and non-food items such as crayons, stickers, mini-books or bubbles.