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Medicine or Malarkey: Candy, Kids, Hyperactivity?

As the weather cools and the calendar turns, children everywhere are counting down to some of fall’s most exciting traditions: fall harvest festivals and Halloween!

Even if you aren’t trick-or-treating, it’s still fun to dress up as your favorite action superhero, Disney prince or princess, or movie icon.

Whether your family is going spooky or sweet, there is one thing you should keep eye on: Sugar in those Halloween treats.

Sugar can cause health problems but what about behavior. Should parents dread the holiday sugar rush?

Does candy make kids hyperactive?

For years, parents have believed that children who consume sweets get a subsequent “sugar rush” that makes them hyper and irritable.

But the science doesn’t back it up. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that more than a dozen studies have failed to connect sugar and hyperactivity.

If you’ve observed that your child and her peers seem to act up after consuming sugar, there may be other factors at work. Halloween provides a lot of excitement and disrupts kids’ normal routines. These may be the actual cause of hyperactivity that seems to be linked to sugar consumption.

Are candy bars harmful in other ways?

Just because sugar is off the hook for hyperactivity, that doesn’t mean that it cannot be consumed without negative consequences. As with everything, moderation is key– and excess sugar is linked to obesity.

Childhood obesity can make it harder for your child’s body to process sugar and produce enough insulin. Childhood rates of prediabetes continue to climb, and poor diets — many of which include an excess of sugar consumption — may be to blame.

Are all candy bars that bad?

Over the past few years, a few candy bars have come onto the market touting better nutrition facts. Some are promoted as “natural” while others replace traditional sugar with date sugar or ingredients like agave nectar. Are there choices that are not quite so bad for your kids’ health?

The truth is that your body doesn’t know one sugar source from another. Whether sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup, cane, sugar beets or another source, it is all processed the same once it’s ingested.

That said, there are a few options on the market that contain less sugar and fat than others. Here examples of a few of those treats and their nutritional info:

  • Peanut M&Ms: This candy option sneaks in small doses of fiber, protein and calcium. A snack-size bag has 93 calories, 9.1 grams of sugar and 4.7 grams of fat.
  • Tootsie Rolls: These can be a better option for chocolate flavor without all the fat and sugar of some other candies. A serving of three minis contains 70 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.
  • 3 Musketeers: This candy’s whipped nougat interior makes it look like more substantial, which can make you feel more satisfied on less. Each miniature bar has 50 calories and 8 grams of sugar.
  • KitKat: A light and crunchy wafer center keeps this option fairly low in calories. Each two-bar pack has 70 calories, 9.2 grams of sugar and 3.6 grams of fat.

While these treats might not seem nearly as “bad” as some of their common counterparts, it’s still important to remember not to go overboard on any treat.

Many treats can have minimal impact as long as they are consumed in moderation. Try limiting your child to one or two pieces of candy a day through the month. They’ll enjoy their Halloween treats without increasing their risk of tricky health conditions later on.