BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- With some 31 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese, a U.S. researcher suggests rethinking Halloween with candy as its main theme.
"Obesity is a serious epidemic, and we have to wake up and realize this is a problem," Donna Arnett of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, said in a statement.
Holidays in which candy plays a big part in the celebration do not help obesity rates, Arnett said.
"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.
Based on the nutrition facts for popular candies handed out this time of year, Arnett estimates the average child collects between 3,500 and 7,000 calories Halloween night. 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, Arnett calculated.
Instead of handing out calorie-laden treats, Arnett suggests giving out non-candy items, like plastic bat rings or spooky stickers.
"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.
Other ideas that are more beneficial to a child's health are to get together in your neighborhood or community and host a large event instead of trick-or-treating, Arnett said.