Planning for a healthy AND tasty Halloween

As Halloween quickly approaches, parents and children are eager to pick costumes, stock up on trick or treat candy and plan, or RSVP to, Halloween parties. Needless to say, it is a fun season for children (and adults) of all ages.

Although Halloween tends to be chock full o' sugar, chocolate and other unhealthier items, there is no reason why you and the kids can't enjoy some of the sweetest that Halloween has to offer, without any of the guilt or regrets that tend to follow. All it takes is a little thinking and "pre-planning." Doing so will help you maintain control and not overdo it when the big day finally comes:

Pre-Halloween
  • Buying Candy: Avoid stocking up on Halloween candy early. Having the candy around the house will tempt you to indulge before trick-or-treating starts. Aim to purchase your candy no more than a day or two before Halloween (you may hit some great sales too!)
  • Plan Your Treat-Giving: There is nothing wrong about giving treats that are healthier than the traditional HFCS laden candy that Halloween often includes. Here are a few ideas:
    • Nut packs, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
    • Granola bars, Clif Bars for Kids, and other snack bars
    • Baked chips, microwave popcorn or pretzels
    • Bubbles, pencils, stickers, Slinkies, Trading Cards, gum
    • Dark chocolate miniatures by Hershey's
  • Party Planning: Consider hosting your own party. Doing so will allow you to have more control over portion control and other foods beyond candy. Serve treats towards the end of the evening, and start off with fresh vegetables and dips, sandwiches made with whole-grain breads and lean meats, whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese and fruit. And, for drinks, choose juice or hot apple cider over soda.
  • Rally Your Neighborhood Together: Talk to other parents in the neighborhood and plan on making a healthier Halloween as a community. Create a "pre-approved" treat list and divide and conquer on the purchases. This will make it easier for all parents involved! (Check out http://www.greenhalloween.org/)
Day of Halloween
  • Eat before Trick-or-Treating: Just like it is wise to grocery shop on a full stomach, it is wise to trick-or-treat on one as well. Serve your kids a healthy snack that is well-balanced and nutritious before to stave off gorging themselves during and after trick-or-treating.
  • Be Picky: Before you go trick-or-treating with your child, talk to them about the treats they are most looking forward to. You may even want to talk to them about what they think is a good amount to consume that night and make a pact with them about how much they will eat and what you will do with the "left-overs".
  • Mini Bag it: Use smaller bags for trick-or-treating. In Mindless Eating: Why we Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, it is argued that people consume more food when it comes in bigger packages. Limiting the capacity of your trick-or-treat bag will help your child to not overdo it.
  • Indulge: Whether or not you have discussed an appropriate amount of treat eating prior to trick-or-treating, let your children enjoy some candy in moderation post-trick-or-treating. Either watch how much they consume or keep the treats in a place that you can manage so that you can decide an appropriate stopping point.
The Day After
  • Portion out the Loot: Apportion the left-over candy into "single-serving" treats that they can indulge in once-a-day or whatever frequency you deem most appropriate. You may even want to formalize these portions by using little Halloween party favor bags to hold two or three small treats. You can staple them to make it clear that the bag is a serving.
  • Giveaway Leftovers: If the idea of giving your child candy every day is distasteful, consider giving away leftovers to places like your office, libraries or pediatrician offices.
  • Out of Sight: If you want to keep the leftover candy around, but would prefer to not make it a daily ritual, put the extras into a high-cabinet or into the back of a cabinet to keep it out of sight. The less you or you child sees the treats, the less likely they will think about them.
  • Sales: A lot of stores will sell candy for deep discounts on November 1st. Resist the urge to stock up.

How do you plan on making Halloween healthier for you and your kids?



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