Halloween is that sweet time of year when children can collect and eat as much candy as they want. But with the obesity rate triple what it was a generation ago, and the number of cavities among children increasing for the first time in 40 years, some health experts consider the candy-focused holiday a nightmare.
Still, the holiday shouldn’t be all spooks and no fun. If your children generally eat well all year long, then experts say that there is nothing wrong with letting them eat candy on Halloween night and a few mini pieces daily afterwards. The key, of course, is moderation. Family nutrition experts shared these tips about how parents can incorporate healthy foods, even workouts, into trick-or-treating — and some ideas for what to do with the rest of the loot when the trick and treating is over.
Fill up before trick-or-treating
If kids are full before they go trick-or-treating, then they will eat fewer pieces of candy afterwards.
Hand out non-sugary foods and toys
Nutritionists suggest some more wholesome treats that parents could give trick-or-treaters. Animal crackers, mini rice cereal or granola bars, whole grain cheddar cheese crackers, and sugar free hot chocolate packets, make good treats. Pretzels, apples, tangerines, fruit leathers, or a trail mix of whole grain cereals are also good suggestions. Kids will usually take cool toys over candy if given a choice, so consider pencils, erasers, stickers, temporary tattoos, glow sticks, and Play-Doh containers. Often children’s excitement is in collecting the candy, rather than actually eating the candy.
Sometimes it’s what’s on the outside that counts more than what is inside.It’s all in the packaging with kids. You can make healthy treats, and package them in a really cool, spooky way that will make them more likely to consume it. Try freezing frozen yogurt in small paper cups and placing them in a cooler with dry ice for a spooky, smoky effect. Decorating the cooler to look like an old chest can make it more fun for kids to dig into the healthy treats.
Trick-or-Treat and Exercise
Parents are encouraged to make their children walk from house to house instead of driving them. Parents can even encourage siblings or friends to wear pedometers or activity meters and start a friendly competition for who can be the most active while they are collecting candy.
Keep your favorite sweets. Hide the rest…
Some nutritionists suggest that a little goes a long way and say it’s best to allow kids to have 1-3 pieces of candy a day, starting with lunch at school, as an afternoon snack, or after dinner, making it a regular part of meals. The rest of the candy can go in the freezer so that it’s out of sight and out of mind. If you’re buying Halloween candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, buy your least favorite ones so that you are not tempted to eat them.
…Or give it away
When children get back home from trick-or-treating, have them make two piles: one for the candy they want to keep, another for the candy they will not eat. Consider donating the second pile to a local senior citizens home, food pantry, Ronald McDonald House, or children’s hospital.
You can even make money off your stash and make a U.S. soldier’s day at the same time. This year, more than 1,000 dentists nationwide are buying candy from kids — $1 per pound — and then shipping it to U.S. troops overseas via Operation Gratitude as part of a Halloween Candy Buy-Back program, started by Wisconsin dentist Dr. Chris Kammer. He says that soldiers will receive toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash with each handful of candy so that they can brush thoroughly afterwards. And in the process, children can learn a valuable lesson about giving.