Kids & Sugar- How to Prepare for Halloween...

With Halloween around the corner, let's talk sugar!

We all love sugar, I mean who doesn't! Growing up in Puerto Rico I was surrounded by pastelillos de guayaba, quesitos, pan dulce and so much more.... Oh and did I mention how good and tasty all of those treats are. In a way, I feel like I was genetically wired to love sugar. Family gatherings always involve sugary treats. And now that I think about it, I can't recall there ever being a night where my father has gone to bed without first having his cookie and cup of milk, even till this day. I especially love macaroons, ice cream, cupcakes and cookies!

But in my family I also see comorbidities related to this love we have for sugar- diabetes, obesity and heart disease. I have 4 dental crowns, all from cavities when I was young. Now in my mid thirties, I still have 2 very large old fillings that if they crack, it will add 2 more crowns to my mouth.

So can I blame it all on genetics or is there more to this? Can we actually be addicted to sugar?

YES, there is a link between sugar and addictive behaviors

When we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released from our brain to our body. When these chemicals are released we experience a high. Our brains like the pleasure we get from this high so when we feel good, we repeat behaviors that make us feel good.

There's more to this science that we won't go into, but if you want to read more I invite you to check out the following links:

The Relationship Between Opioid and Sugar Intake

Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts

The good news is that as with other addictions, a sugar addiction is one that you can control.

A lot of the current evidence that we have on sugar and addiction is on adults. But kids are also vulnerable! Some would argue even more so as their brains are still developing.

Fun Fact: The brain doesn't fully mature until about age 25!

Should my child eat all of their halloween candy?


This year will certainly look different and your child may not gather as much candy as in prior years, but you should still set limits. Set these limits BEFORE he/she has all the candy and decide what to do with the left overs together. Deciding on these items beforehand will help prevent, or at least limit a breakdown later on.

Suggestions for the extra candy:

EXPERIMENT, have fun becoming a scientist. Ideas HERE

DONATE IT, homeless shelters, crisis centers or food pantries take donations

MAIL IT, to deployed troops, veterans and first responders through operation gratitude

FREEZE IT, in separate batches to take out as needed

How much added sugar is recommended for my child?

Kids younger than 2 years of age should NOT have any added sugar!

For kids 2+ check out the infographic put out by the American Heart Association

For perspective: Every 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon

Read more:

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020

WHO recommendations on sugar intake

How does sugar affect my child?

Do I really have to cut sugar out?

This is a very personal decision and one that you should make in conjunction with your healthcare provider.

In my case, I know I could cut all sugar out if I really wanted to, but I don't want to. However, given my family history and what I know about sugar, I definitely limit it. I also find sweet alternatives that are healthy to satisfy that sweet craving.

So my rule:

At Home - Be GOOD

Going Out - No Restrictions!

For being good at home, I do very very limited sugar or healthy sugar alternatives. If I am using a sweetener, 99% of the times it's natural honey and in very small amounts. The key take away is read nutrition labels! When you start reading you start noticing how many things have added sugar that you wouldn't have thought of and that really don't need it! It also allows you to identify healthier alternatives.

When I'm eating out or going out for desserts, there are no restrictions. But of course, appropriate quantity is key! AND not finding an excuse to go out all the time, only on rare or special occasions such as halloween!!!!!

For some of my healthier sweet alternatives my go to's are Mint Chip Rebel Ice Cream and Alyssa's Healthy Vegan Bites, both can be found at Publix.

Now that we talked sugar....

How can my family have a safe halloween during the coronavirus pandemic?

First, understand the risks levels for the different activities your family is considering. Knowing the risk will help you determine which activities are best for your family, based on your situation.

Halloween activities and how the CDC ranked them on Sept. 21, 2020, based on COVID-19 risk. (KTLA)

Next, take precautions to stay safe:

  1. Wear a mask

  2. Wash hands frequently

  3. Stay 6 ft away from others

Read more specifics on the CDC website and John Hopkins Medicine

Ohhh and don't forget to brush your teeth after eating your candy and before bedtime

Be Informed, Understand the Risks, Take Action


Please remember to always discuss your specific situation with your healthcare provider

Our posts are for informational purposes only

If you are looking for a pediatrician in St. Pete/Tampa and want to learn more about us


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