Halloween Candy Does Not Cause Childhood Obesity

Why you should stuff trick-or-treat bags with Smarties, Twix, Reese's Cups and more

With Halloween approaching, I get nostalgic for the holiday as I knew it during my trick-or-treating years, when we’d go scavenging from door to door well into the night. These days, costumed kids hit the streets before some of us are home from work. By the time the sun sets, the majority of them are finished (dressing up like a zombie is way more fun at night, and for authenticity’s sake, vampires should not be exposed to daylight, so this trend is problematic on multiple levels). At least one tradition endures—candy. You can debate Three Musketeers versus Twix, or Nerds versus Smarties (I’m partial to Mallo Cups myself, very old school). But unless you’re that old crank who gives out loose change, sweets are still a Halloween staple.

Or so I thought. The Inquirer ran a story yesterday with the headline “What’s really scary? Obesity.” It sounded like the setup for a Saturday Night Live public-service-announcement sketch. But the piece was serious, with a stat about how child obesity has tripled since 1980 and advice from websites like GreenHalloween.org that suggests substituting raisins for Reese’s Cups so we don’t steer America’s youth toward becoming future contestants on The Biggest Loser.

This is about as ridiculous as the notion that Courtney Stodden and that dude from The Green Mile are in a healthy relationship. Here’s what we don’t need a study or a macrobiotic nutritionist to tell us: One day of candy collecting won’t put your kid on the fast track to type 1 diabetes (yet I suspect Mayor Nutter is already working on a candy tax to accompany his sugary drinks tax; it’s really not a cheap way to fill the city coffers, folks, it’s for the kids!). One expert quoted in the story pointed out that children not only get candy from trick or treating, they also collect it at school that day. Is that a problem? Are we afraid they’re eating it all at once? My parents kept an eye on how much Halloween snacking I was doing, which was smart, because if left to my own devices, I could have easily thrown back 20 Kit Kats in a sitting. If your kid’s haul weighs more than a Thanksgiving turkey, bring some into the office. Your co-workers will thank you, unless they’re getting married in a week or are training for a half-marathon.

The Inquirer story also bemoans the fact that, despite a complete lack of evidence that anyone ever ate a Milky Way spiked with a razor blade or died from a poisoned Snickers bar, we still won’t hand out anything that’s not wrapped. According to the article, this is a problem because it means you can’t give out fresh fruit. Even if safety wasn’t an issue, handing out apples or pomegranates for Halloween should be illegal. You know how much a sack of oranges would weigh? Forget obesity—you’re asking for a Halloween hernia epidemic. If I was a kid and you dropped a load of kumquats into my trick-or-treat bag, I’m TPing your house next year.

When kids knock on your door on Monday, they won’t want spider rings or temporary tattoos or pencils topped with pumpkin-shaped erasers that don’t work and just smear everything. Feel like substituting iTunes gift cards for Butterfingers? That’ll work. Otherwise, give them candy. One day’s worth, doled out over a week or two, won’t impact their health if you’re not feeding them a Baconator Double for dinner every night. Part of our responsibility as adults should be to make sure that while we protect our children, we don’t take all the fun out of being a kid in the process.