Health Advice



Quinn on Nutrition: Tricky treats

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald on

Published in Nutrition

Five years ago this month, I moved to the small town where my oldest daughter and family live. And because my grandkids are ranch kids, coming to Grammy's house in town for Halloween has become a special tradition. Even before they were old enough to go door to door, we would dress up and I'd tell them what to do when children in costumes showed up on the porch.

"Listen for the doorbell," I explained. "Then open the door and when the child says, "Trick or Treat!" put some candy in their bag.

My 3-year-old granddaughter took those instructions seriously. Before dropping a treat into each outstretched bag, she would sternly remind each ghost and goblin, "What do you SAY?"

This year will be different. We won't have our usual crowd of kids and parents hanging out at the house. And wearing a mask will take on an entirely different meaning.

According the Centers for Disease Control, the only costume mask that is a safe substitute for a cloth mask is one with two or more breathable layers of fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face...which makes me think we all might want to dress up as mummies.

I was...and then I wasn't...surprised that sales for Halloween candy are up this year, according to the National Confectioners Association. With so many usual activities restricted, curling up with a bag of Snickers is at least one alternative.

The CDC also warns that the tradition of handing out candy to trick or treaters is high risk for the spread of the coronavirus.


A less risky activity, they say, is to do a one-way trick or treat give-away. Line up individually-wrapped goodies at the end of your sidewalk or edge of yard for kiddos to grab and go. And of course, no one who has been exposed to COVID should be handing out treats at all.

As sad as that makes me, let's face it. Halloween treats are not really an essential nutrient group. Most furnish energy in the form of sugar and fat but not a lot of other nutrients. (Although there is some protein in my personal favorites, Peanut M&M's and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups).

That's why nutrition experts tell us to make these types of goodies every once in a while "treats"...not everyday foods. And the current dietary guidelines even go so far as to estimate how much added sugar and fat is reasonable in a healthful diet. For most of us, we would do well not to exceed about 100 to 200 extra calories from any of these foods in one day. Happy Halloween.


(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to

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(c)2020 The Monterey County Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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