Temper your sweet tooth on Halloween

Farm Forum

FARGO, N.D. – “Mom, did you notice when the last cake-decorating class is being held?” my 10-year-old daughter asked.

“Yes, your final class is at 6 p.m. on the last Thursday of October,” I said to my detail-oriented daughter.

“And what is special about that day?” she asked in a dramatic tone with widened eyes and raised eyebrows. She looked a little scary.

“Oh, no, that’s Halloween and I suppose you would like to go trick-or-treating,” I replied when the significance of the date dawned on me.

“Well, yeah,” she replied matter-of-factly. She looked very dejected, with slumped shoulders and a frown. She loves to dress up in silly costumes and run from house to house with her plastic pumpkin pail.

I guess coming home with a frosting-covered cake isn’t a sweet enough deal for her, I thought to myself.

“You can wear your costume to cake decorating class,” I offered.

“Do you want me to get frosting on it?” she countered.

She didn’t want to miss the class or the activity, so she will be haunting our neighborhood extra-early this year. Neighbors, please be ready.

You might question what a nutrition columnist is doing writing about taking her kids to cake decorating class and allowing her child to trick-or-treat.

Frankly, I’m not too worried about occasional sweet indulgences. After all, all things in moderation can fit in a healthful diet.

My daughter had no cavities at her last dental visit, so I know she is brushing her teeth effectively. Her weight is appropriate for her height, so she is learning to self-regulate her food intake and stay physically active.

We have quite the collective “sweet tooth” in the U.S. In 2012, Americans bought 600 million pounds of candy, with a price tag of $2.4 billion.

What does the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans say about foods and beverages with added sweeteners? From a food science viewpoint, sugar has many positive features. It adds flavor, helps preserve food (such as jams and jellies), promotes browning of cookies and provides texture in other foods.

However, sweeteners add calories without nutrients. Therefore, the dietary guidelines advise cutting back on foods and drinks with added sugars or caloric sweeteners. Specifically, the latest guidelines advise drinking few or no regular sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks or fruit-flavored drinks. We should eat less cake, cookies, ice cream and candy.

How can we limit our sweets? Enjoy a snack-sized candy bar instead of a full-sized one. If leftover candy is too tempting, keep it in the freezer, not on the kitchen counter within easy reach.

After the trick-or-treating adventure, kids and parents should agree on an appropriate number of treats to enjoy per day. Sweet, sticky treats can cause cavities, so make sure that the little ghouls brush their “choppers” well after enjoying a few treats.

Consider these alternative treat ideas, too.

· Sugar-free gum

· Packages of trail mix or nuts

· Cereal bars

· Small boxes of raisins or other dried fruit

· Sugar-free gum

· 100 percent fruit juice boxes

· Snack-sized packages of peanut butter and crackers, graham crackers or oatmeal cookies

· Halloween pencils, pens, stickers, temporary tattoos or spider rings

This sweet treat is a favorite of kids but also provides protein, vitamins and minerals from the cereal and peanut butter.

Chocolate Cereal

Snack Mix

9 c. cereal squares (such as rice, corn or wheat Chex or Crispix)

1 c. chocolate chips

c. peanut butter (reduced-fat)

c. butter or margarine

tsp. vanilla

1 c. powdered sugar

Measure cereal and pour into large sealable container or heavy-duty plastic bag. Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter and margarine in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir in vanilla. If not melted, continue heating for 15 to 30 seconds. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal, stirring until all pieces are evenly coated. Pour powdered sugar over mixture. Seal lid securely. Shake until all pieces are well-coated. Store leftovers in a sealable container.

Makes 24 half-cup servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 7 grams (g) of fat, 27 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of protein and 160 milligrams of sodium.