BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The average U.S. child collects between 3,500 and 7,000 calories from candy on Halloween night, a public heath expert estimates.
Donna Arnett, head of the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, said a 100-pound child who consumed 7,000 calories would have to walk for nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours to burn those calories.
"Though Halloween alone is not going to be a major overall contributor to our children's health, any behaviors they learn can have an effect," Arnett said in a statement.
Nearly 17 percent of U.S. children and teens ages 2-19 are obese and 31 percent are overweight or obese, Arnett said.
"Obesity is a serious epidemic, and we have to wake up and realize this is a problem," Arnett said.
Arnett suggested giving out non-candy items, such as plastic bat rings or spooky stickers, or better yet, money.
"I have also seen people give out quarters in lieu of candy -- and that is another great alternative if you can do it because kids love money," Arnett said.
Trick-or-treating does involve walking, so Arnett advised to leave the car behind and walk with children on Halloween -- and other days as well. Give each child a pedometer and make a contest out of who takes the most steps -- just don't make the prize candy.