While Halloween is a treat for kids it can be very tricky for parents. In fact, to some parents Halloween can be downright frightening! With too many sugary treats in your child's possession, late night sugar highs and chocolate-coated fingertips can be a parent's worst nightmare.
So what can you do to feel less like you're contributing to the onslaught of empty calories being distributed throughout the neighborhood? Consider giving healthier treats this Halloween. Here are some ideas:
- Sugar-free gum
- Small bags of pretzels or animal crackers
- Small packs of nuts or raisins
- Fruit roll-ups
- Popcorn balls
Another alternative to the junk food challenges is to hand out a non-food treat. With a little bit of thought and some cleaver shopping, you can find some really nice items for only a few cents per item. Here are some ideas:
- Cool Halloween stickers or temporary tattoos
- Halloween balloons—you can even rent a helium tank and fill them on the spot
- Halloween themed pencils, colored chalk or erasers
- Rubber spiders or worms
- Spider, skull, or pumpkin plastic rings
How to Have a Healthy Halloween
Although nutrition may not be top of mind when kids head out on their quest for treats, parents can help by serving a healthy meal beforehand so they are not so hungry when the candy starts rolling in. With childhood obesity contributing to a growing number of health problems, the best defense against the war on empty calories is sending kids out on a full stomach.
Have rules in place prior to Halloween about how much candy children can eat each day, and how long kids can keep their Halloween loot. One rule of thumb about keeping candy would be to the next holiday, such as Thanksgiving. That's a good four-week period that gives them time to enjoy candy and spread it out evenly throughout that time.
When your children return home from trick-or-treat, don't let them take control over their bags of goodies. Rather, sort through the sugary bounty with them, keeping only those treats which are unopened. While you are going through their candy, let them pick two or three treats they can eat on this special night. Store the rest of the candy out of reach and out of sight. By stowing sweets where you can't smell them or see them may also help keep the adults in the house from bingeing.
Over the next few days or weeks, rationing the treats is the best approach. Allow your children to make their own selections, but tell them they can pick two pieces a day, one for their lunch box and one in the afternoon. If there is just too much, here are some ideas for leftover Halloween candy:
- Come Thanksgiving, what's still around gets thrown away or donated to a local food bank, school or church.
- Try using some in a recipe to make a special cake, pie or other treat.
- Make a gingerbread house for the holidays and decorate it with the leftover candy.
- Freeze some and then chop it up and use it as a topping for an occasional special treat.
- Put some of your child's favorites away and save them for birthdays, an occasional treat or as a dessert.
Just remember to follow your own rules. Balance and moderation in diet—along with lots of physical activity—are critical for maintaining weight during the holiday season among both kids and adults. Allowing your children to enjoy the tastes of Halloween in small portions without deeming candy a bad food is tricky, but it helps make Halloween a treat for everyone.
Jennifer Fleming is a registered dietitian and clinical dietitian at Mount Nittany Medical Center.