Is there a more perfect day of the year for a kid than Halloween? Scouring the neighbourhood with a group of costumed compadres to fill your king-sized pillowcase with free candy…life for a social 10 year old with a hearty sweet tooth doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. But with studies coming out to suggest that the average Hallowe’en haul equates to between 3,500 and 7,000 calories (that would take a 100-lb child over 17 hours of fast-paced running to burn off, by the way), it’s no wonder parents are re-evaluating their Hallowe’en practices to reduce the effects of this single-day sugar haul.
If you’re worried about eating habits and want to find some healthy Halloween alternatives, here are a few suggestions to incorporate healthy eating and activity into this year’s trick-or-treating run without having to opt for handing out toothbrushes and high-fives.
1. Eat Before You Treat
Sit your family down for a good healthy meal before you set out in search of candy. If kids are full before they go, they will typically snack less along the way and eat fewer pieces of candy when they get home.
2. Consider the Container
While it may be quite the faux-pas, kids will often judge a book by its cover so sometimes all you need is a little amped-up packaging to sell your healthy treat to those discerning trick-or-treaters. Try decorating your treat container or give out healthier items that are packaged in a fun way.
3. Set Some Ground Rules
Let your kids know ahead of time the limits you’re placing on their candy consumption (some nutritionists suggest 1-3 pieces a day: lunch at school, snack at home, after dinner) and, more importantly, the reason for those limits. Consider being somewhat lenient with their consumption on Hallowe’en night then put the rest in the freezer. Out of sight, out of mind.
4. Encourage Sharing
Thin out the candy haul and reinforce the importance of sharing all in one go! Suggest that your kids sift through their stock to set aside the pieces that they really like and offer up what they don’t to the other kids they’re trick-or-treating with.
5. Buy Back the Bulk
Offer to buy some of the candy back from your kids, putting different values on different sized chocolate bars. This reaffirms that the candy belongs to your kids but gives them a way to gain a little extra spending money in exchange for calories.
6. Don’t Tempt Yourself
Parents should be just as aware of their sugar consumption when there’s candy lying around the house. If you’re buying sweets to give out to trick-or-treaters, wait until late October to buy the bulk of the candy you’ll be handing out. When you do finally pick up the sweets, purchase the ones that you like the least so that you’re less tempted to dip into the bowl on the big night.
7. Toys Over Tootsie Rolls
Oftentimes, the excitement of Hallowe’en is in the trick-or-treating itself and less in the binge eating afterwards, leading kids to choose toys over candy when given the option. Bypass the treats altogether by perusing the dollar store to stock up on other giveaways such as temporary tattoos, stickers, Play-Doh, false vampire teeth…you name it.
8. Better Bites
Opt for snacks that still fall within the category of treats but are on the lower side when it comes to salt and sugar content. Good choices include animal crackers, whole grain cheddar crackers, dark chocolate (but not too dark, you may like the taste but most kids don’t), small cereal boxes, pretzels, sugar free gum and popcorn.
9. The Lesser Evil
If you really don’t want to phase out the chocolate-and-candy tradition, choose the smaller, bite-sized candy bars that are lowest in fat or sugar: Butterfinger, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, York Peppermint Patties, Starburst and Raisinets are all better choices in the supply of sugary treats.
A Few Final Words
Keep in mind that some parents or kids will toss home-wrapped treats as a precaution towards either tainted foods or the potential of food allergies. To pass the parent test, buy products that are pre-packaged and avoid giving out treats with common allergens, such as nuts and coconut.
And remember, Halloween is meant to be fun! You’re allowed to provide a little consumption-control but don’t let it spoil the fun – enjoy yourself and let your kids do so as well…just remember to brush before bed.