Making Halloween Healthier

Friday, October 5, 2007

At Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Joseph Cifelli, Ed.D., assistant professor of science education, recently surveyed his undergraduate students about their preferences in Halloween treats. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups was the hands down most popular choice, followed by Snickers, Swedish Fish, Twix and Skittles. "It's clear that our students reflect the national consumer trend and candy is still the number one Halloween treat," says Dr. Cifelli.

He stressed the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents of both sexes in our society, noting that it would be wise for parents to choose their Halloween treats smartly. Dr. Cifelli is also quick to point out that while we are enjoying Halloween, there are some tricks in the treats that we may not be fully aware of.

"Take the Twix cookie bars for example," he explains. "One package (two cookies) delivers a whopping 280 calories and 11 grams of saturated fat. That's 55% of one's recommended daily allowance for saturated fat, which is the bad fat that contributes to cardiovascular disease."

The best advice Dr. Cifelli gives is, "Compare the food labels. Choose items that have some minerals, vitamins, fiber and whole grains; avoid items with larger amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugar and added sodium."

Dr. Cifelli and Mark Reynolds, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, were two of the many SJU researchers who worked on a federally-funded anti-obesity initiative to study and help prevent obesity. Their project involved the development of a hands-on science lesson for students in the fourth grade. Using an everyday referent model for the food calorie, namely, a Hershey Kiss, students looked at both the physics and chemistry of the energy in a single Kiss.

Dr. Cifelli can be reached for comment at 610-660-3482 or, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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