Monday, March 19, 2018

Halloween health, safety tips on pumpkin, face paint and — of course — candy

Autumn weather has finally arrived in the bay area, bringing crisp mornings and cool(ish) evenings. Temperatures should be in the 70s Monday evening when the little ghosts and goblins head out for Halloween. In keeping with the holiday spirit, here are some treats and tricks to keep in mind for well-being and safety.

Times staff writer


In its purest form — no, we're not talking about that canned pumpkin pie mix — this symbol of Halloween is good for you. How good? Let registered dietitian Sharon Cox of Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas count the ways:

1. It's beneficial for your heart. People with high-fiber diets have lower risk of heart disease than those with low-fiber diets. One cup has 3 grams of fiber.

2. It helps you see better. A cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vision-promoting vitamin A.

3. It boosts weight loss. The fiber helps keep you feeling full longer. That goes for the seeds, too.

4. It can help you sleep better. Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that may aid relaxation and sleep. Added bonus: Tryptophan may help your body make serontin, a mood-improving neurotransmitter.

5. It can help fight off certain cancers. That's because of those pumpkin seeds again — specifically the plant sterols they contain.

6. It helps promote longer life. Thank you, alpha- and beta-carotene, nutrients associated with longevity and cancer prevention.

Pumpkin is good for you, but eating 100 pumpkin pancakes is not.

Parkland registered dietitian diabetes education coordinator Katherine Nashatker offers this advice: "I would encourage pumpkin eaters to enjoy pumpkin in low-fat, low-sugar ways like roasting or steaming the vegetable, boiling and mashing it, as opposed to choosing high-calorie, high-sugar processed pumpkin products such as lattes, pies and casseroles."

Also worth noting: The pumpkin you carved with the kids is likely edible, but you're better off with a sugar pie pumpkin specifically grown for consumption.

Face paint and makeup

Whether you're trick-or-treating or attending a party, you want to look your best — without aftereffects from face paint or makeup (a rash, swollen eyelids). Consider these U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety tips:

• Follow all product directions.

• Only use products intended for skin.

• Smell the product first. If it stinks, toss it.

• Read the labels. Some face paint and makeup may not be safe for use near the eyes, despite the photo on the package.

• Don't wait until after you blanket your face with a product to learn that you're allergic to it. Apply a dab on your arm for a couple of days to check for any reaction.

• When it comes to color additives, make sure they have the FDA's okay. To determine which ones are approved for use, and on which body parts, do your homework:

Step 1: Check the list of ingredients on the label. Look for the names of the colors.

Step 2: Check the Summary of Color Additives on the FDA's website, which includes a section on cosmetics. If there's a color in your makeup that is not on the list, don't use it. And remember this: Just because it's on the list doesn't make it safe for use near the eyes. See the list at

• Know your glow: fluorescent and luminescent.

Fluorescent colors are sometimes called "neon" or "day-glow." There are eight fluorescent colors approved for cosmetics — D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10 and No. 11, D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27 and No. 28 and D&C Yellow No. 7.

Luminescent colors glow in the dark. Luminescent zinc sulfide, which gives off a whitish-yellowish-greenish glow, is approved by the FDA for limited cosmetic use.

Before you turn in: Remove your face paint or makeup by following the product's label to a tee.

If you've had a reaction, consider calling a doctor if warranted — or the FDA, which tracks bad reactions to face paint and novelty makeup (toll-free 1-866-337-6272).

Decorative contact lenses

If you plan to accessorize your Halloween costume with crazy eyes (zombie, werewolf, vampire, some other creature), think twice. Decorative contact lenses, sometimes called fashion or costume lenses, may be just that — decorative (they don't correct your vision) — but in the eyes of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they are considered medical devices and, therefore, regulated by the FDA. Lenses are not one size fits all. To avoid eye injury, you will need a prescription for your lenses, according to the FDA, which notes that it is illegal to sell them over the counter without a prescription. A poor fit can cause damage ranging from corneal scratches and infection to decreased vision and, in severe cases, blindness, which is why it is imperative that you have a prescription from an eye doctor.

"The problem isn't with the decorative contacts themselves," says Bernard P. Lepri, an FDA optometrist in the agency's Contact Lens and Retinal Devices Branch. "It's the way people use them improperly — without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional or without appropriate followup care."

The FDA cautions against buying lenses from street vendors, salons or beauty supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty stores, Halloween stores, record or video stores, convenience stores, beach shops or Internet sites.

Once you have your FDA-cleared or approved lenses, it's important that you follow all instructions, from how to wear them to how to clean and disinfect them. If you experience signs of a possible infection — eye pain, redness, decreased vision — see your eye doctor immediately.


According to personal finance website WalletHub, we spent $547.9 million on Halloween candy in 2015, making it the fourth biggest candy-selling holiday. That's a lot of Snickers, Skittles and Starburst Fruit Chews ... and sugar. A couple of treats won't take too big a toll, but a few handfuls from the candy bowl or your daughter's plastic pumpkin will add up quickly. The key to not succumbing to an overload of sweets is, as with many things in life, moderation. If you need a little incentive to reinforce the merits of portion control and bolster your willpower, take a look at how some Halloween favorites stack up — and, for perspective, roughly how much work and exercise it would take to offset your candy intake, courtesy of the Calorie Control Council website (

Brach's Classic Candy Corn (19 pieces): 140 calories, 0g fat, 28g sugar, 35g carbohydrates

21 minutes of gardening for a 175-pound person

Dum Dum Lollipops (3 lollipops): 60 calories, 0g fat, 11g sugar, 15g carbohydrates

15 minutes of line dancing for a 135-pound person

Starburst Original Fruit Chews (8 pieces): 160 calories, 3g fat, 22g sugar, 34g carbohydrates

15 minutes of singles tennis for a 175-pound person

Skittles Original Bite Size Candies (3 packs): 190 calories, 2g fat, 34g sugar, 42g carbohydrates

26 minutes of soccer for a 135-pound person

M&M's Brand Fun Size Milk Chocolate Candies (3 packs): 190 calories, 7g fat, 26g sugar, 29g carbohydrates

24 minutes of swimming for a 175-person person

Snickers Fun Size (2 bars): 160 calories, 8g fat, 18g sugar, 21g carbohydrates

22 minutes of jogging for a 135-pound person

Tootsie Roll Pops (1 Tootsie pop): 60 calories, 0g fat, 10g sugar, 15g carbohydrates

6 minutes of rope jumping for a 175-pound person

Tootsie Roll Midgees (6 pieces): 140 calories, 3g fat, 20g sugar, 28g carbohydrates

23 minutes of Pilates for a 135-pound person

Kit Kat Wafer Bar Snack Size (3 two-piece bars): 210 calories, 11g fat, 21g sugar, 27g carbohydrates

23 minutes of inline skating for a 175-pound person

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar Snack Size (3 bars): 190 calories, 12g fat, 21g sugar, 22g carbohydrates

37 minutes on the elliptical for a 135-pound person

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (3 single cups): 240 calories, 14g fat, 24g sugar, 27g carbohydrates

47 minutes of kayaking for a 135-pound person

Twix Minis (3 pieces): 150 calories, 7g fat, 15g sugar, 20g carbohydrates

16 minutes of racquetball for a 175-pound person

Milky Way Minis (5 pieces): 190 calories, 7g fat, 26g sugar, 30g carbohydrates

19 minutes of kickboxing for a 135-pound person

3 Musketeers Minis (7 pieces): 180 calories, 5g fat, 27g sugar, 32g carbohydrates

17 minutes of beach volleyball for a 175-pound person

Almond Joy Snack Size (2 pieces): 160 calories, 9g fat, 16g sugar, 20g carbohydrates

22 minutes of rowing for a 135-pound person

Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Times wires

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