Cut Down on Sugar This Halloween

group of kids dressed up for Halloween sit on porch with jack-o-lantern

For the past 30 years, Americans have been sweetening their diets with more and more sugar. These days, we each consume an average 20 teaspoons of sugar a day – most of it from soda and other soft drinks, candy, desserts, and sweetened dairy products – according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA recommends no more than 5 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 for men on average. Children under age 2 should have no food or drinks sweetened with sugar. Children and teens up to 18 should be limited to 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day and limited to no more than 8 ounces per week of drinks sweetened with sugar. That means just one 12-ounce soda, which contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar, is too much.

All this sugar adds extra calories to our bodies without contributing any nutrients. Calories can lead to extra weight and even obesity, which increases the risks for serious health problems including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

What about natural sugars?

Fruits and vegetables and other foods that are part of a nutritious diet naturally contain sugar. This type of sugar is different from the sugars that are added to food to make it taste better.

So-called “natural” sweeteners – including fruit juice, nectars, honey, molasses, and maple syrup – are sometimes marketed as healthier than refined white sugar or corn syrup. But the truth is there is no health advantage to consuming added sugar of any type. Whether it’s “natural” or refined, too much sugar can lead to weight gain, poor nutrition, and tooth decay. (In addition, honey should never be given to children younger than age 1.)

How to cut back

Try these tips from the AHA:

  • Add less sugar to coffee or tea.
  • Drink sugar-free or low-calorie beverages.
  • Eat fresh fruits or fruits canned in water or natural juice instead of fruit canned in syrup.
  • Add fresh or dried fruit instead of sugar to pancakes, cereal, or oatmeal.
  • Cut the sugar called for in recipes by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes (use equal amounts).

Handling Halloween

Halloween is practically synonymous with candy. How to limit the sugar without spoiling the fun? Here are some tried-and-true tips:

  • Give kids a smaller bag to carry, or limit the number of houses they are allowed to visit.
  • Keep the candy out of sight, and allow a few pieces a day.
  • Buy back the candy from your kids, and let them use the money to buy a toy or game.
  • Have healthier Halloween-themed foods on hand so the kids aren’t as tempted by candy. Bob for apples, roast pumpkin seeds, pour popcorn into clear plastic gloves to make “skeleton” hands, or scoop out oranges and mix with other cut-up fruit to make jack-o’-lantern fruit cups.
  • Start a trend by giving out small toys and stickers instead of candy to the children who come to your door.

Your weight, your diet, and how much physical activity you get are all related, and can increase the chances you might get cancer. Find out more from the experts at the American Cancer Society.

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