SOURCE: California Milk Processor Board

October 01, 2007 12:01 ET

Don't Be a Halloween Junkie

The Tricks to Keeping Kids Healthy

SAN CLEMENTE, CA--(Marketwire - October 1, 2007) - Halloween is around the corner and while children ponder whether to be a Transformer or the starlet from "High School Musical," parents cringe at the loads of candy their kids are likely to consume -- at parties, while trick-or-treating, at the mall and even at school. A survey conducted by KidsHealth.org revealed that most of the 1,200 kids surveyed get at least 50 pieces of candy during Halloween. Forty-four percent get more than 100 pieces and, even spookier, 20 percent said they eat ALL their Halloween candy.(1) To keep the fright where it belongs (in the costumes and not in Jack O' Lantern buckets), the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) -- the creators of GOT MILK? -- has partnered with health professionals throughout California to share simple strategies to help parents save their kids from becoming "Halloween junkies." And, as expected, a little milk can be a masked hero that performs great tricks.

"The trick is to plan ahead and bring nutrition back in ways kids are likely to enjoy," says Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, Research Nutrition Specialist and Lecturer at the Department of Nutrition at University of California Davis. "Low-fat pudding made with milk makes a great party treat and eating a nutritious meal before trick-or-treating will help curb children's appetite for sugar."

Zidenberg-Cherr says an average-size Jack O' Lantern bucket fits approximately 250 pieces of small chocolate bars and candy. That could easily add up to 9,000 calories (4.5 times the recommended daily amount for a grown person!), 200 grams of fat and 1,500 grams of sugar.

"While it's normal for kids to eat sweets during Halloween, too much could lead to stomach aches," adds Zidenberg-Cherr.

To help parents cope, the CMPB has developed a 12-step plan that can be found on www.gotmilk.com. Recipes and treats rich in calcium, vitamins and nutrients are also available on the site. Halloween tips include:

1) Plan in Advance. Make a plan prior to Halloween so that you can keep tabs on what your children will be consuming that week. Talk to teachers (many schools hold Halloween events), party host(s) and neighbors to agree on the types and amount of candy, toys and treats that are handed out to children.

2) Dinner First. On Halloween night, give children an extra-nutritious dinner before trick-or-treating. It will reduce their appetite for sweets. A homemade macaroni and cheese made with whole wheat pasta and low-fat milk, plus veggies would be an example. Remember to serve a glass of low-fat milk with the meal.

3) Set Limits. Set boundaries with your child on how many pieces of candy they're allowed to eat on Halloween and while trick-or-treating. Allow your children to make their own selections, but tell them they can only pick a few pieces.

"As a parent of a three-year-old daughter, I am concerned about the lack of nutrition in our children's diets, especially during the holidays," says California Milk Processor Board Executive Director Steve James. "With the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes among kids, parents must exert their power to prevent these diseases at home."

A Mayo Clinic article published last year reports that one-third of children in this country are overweight or at-risk of becoming overweight, totaling about 25 million kids. That number has doubled for children between the ages of six to 11 and has tripled for teenagers over the last two decades.(2) In the Hispanic community, a 2006 National Council of La Raza Fact Sheet reports that 39.3% of Mexican-American children (the largest Hispanic group in the US) ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 23.7% are obese -- outnumbering African-Americans and Whites.(3) Furthermore, a 2005 article in the Journal of Clinical Diabetes reports that there are 206,000 reported cases of diabetes among people ages 20 and under.(4)

"These statistics show why proper nutrition is paramount, even on Halloween," says Zidenberg-Cherr. "Drinking low-fat milk is proven to strengthen teeth, prevent cavities, boost calcium, vitamin D and potassium levels."

Experts recommend that children drink at least four, eight-ounce glasses of low or non-fat milk everyday. To obtain copies of healthy, kid-friendly Halloween recipes and the GOT MILK? "12-Step Program to Help Parents Cope," visit www.gotmilk.com.

(1) KidsHealth.org. "Kids Talk About: Halloween Candy." 23 Aug, 2007. http://www.kidshealth.org/kid/talk/kidssay/comments_halloween.html.

(2) Mayo Clinic. "Childhood Obesity." 11 Sept. 2007 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-obesity/DS00698.

(3) National Council of La Raza. "Key Facts About Childhood Obesity in the Latino Community." 11 Sept. 2007 http://www.nclr.org/content/publications/download/41691.

(4) Copeland, Kenneth C. "Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents: Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment." Clinical Diabetes. Vol. 23. 4 Nov. 2005. 11 Sept. 2007 http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/23/4/181.

About the CMPB

The California Milk Processor Board was established in 1993 to make milk more competitive and increase milk consumption in California. Awareness of GOT MILK? is over 90% nationally and it is considered one of the most successful campaigns in history. GOT MILK? is a federally registered trademark that has been licensed by the national dairy boards since 1995. GOT MILK? gifts and recipes can be viewed at www.gotmilk.com. The CMPB is funded by all California milk processors and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

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