Healthy and Halloween aren’t often two words that are paired together, and when they are it is usually a list of tips telling you to swap raisins for Reese’s or homemade trail mix for Twix. Whether we like it or not, the thought of Halloween conjures up two main “C”s: Costumes and Candy. However, despite the fact that the 2 “C”s share the responsibility in defining this long lived celebration, only one of these ideas is given much thought in advance or time in preparation: Costumes. Candy, on the other hand, is simply an afterthought that is usually purchased in excessive quantities within a few days of the holiday, and yes, I say excessive because what family do you know that runs out of candy to give trick-or-treaters? It is then dished out without a moment to consider the ingredients or the amount of which each little dressed up goblin or princess would be getting that day…heck, that entire month!
I could go on and on about all the healthy alternatives that one could provide to children growing up in a nation with a HUGE obesity problem (pun intended) but chances are you’ve heard them all before. In fact, when doing a bit of research to see how many of those common recommendations are repeated by nutrition experts, I came across an article stereotyping dietitians as the ones handing out stickers instead of Snickers. This reinforced my decision to focus this article on improving your Halloween traditions without losing the enjoyment of the holiday. For those of you that might have been looking for this type of “swap this for that” article, feel free to check out the links below for reputable resources.
My agenda is somewhat different than one might expect from a “dietitian” but I am hopeful you find it refreshing. As a nation, we have become very focused on our children’s weight, and for good reason, but that doesn’t mean we need to overly restrict the intake of candy. Think about the children of 50 years ago; they all went trick or treating, ate tons of sugar and fat filled candy, and still managed to remain fairly healthy. Of course some things have changed dramatically over the years such as buying candy in gallon size bags, being able to trick or treat out of a trunk (so that the amount of physical activity required to obtain candy is minimized), spending an abundance of time in front of a tv or video game, and most importantly, the availability of junk food/candy (ie: food-like-substances) that is offered almost every day in some shape or form. What I am proposing is that we realign our “healthy intentions” to remember that it is our overall lifestyle that defines our health and wellness, not how much candy is eaten on/around Halloween.
In short, my top tips for a healthy-ish Halloween are as follows:
- be a good role model daily of the way you would like your child to eat;
- try to teach your children to eat mindfully so that even those “food like substances” can be enjoyed and savored bite by bite instead of inhaled without thought or a notion of fullness;
- give them plenty of time and space to run around and expend all those additional sugar calories, on a very regular basis and even more after a slightly higher load of this sweet stuff has been ingested;
- reinforce those holiday traditions that don’t focus on food/candy/dessert …or even materialistic presents for that matter; perhaps the “treat” is the actual holiday
- try not to restrict their candy intake too much as that will most likely end up in the opposite result.
If you are concerned your child’s classroom party might not have anything healthy to offer, bring it yourself. If you are against adding to the mountains of sugar and fat that will be distributed on Halloween, purchase stickers, pencils, plastic spider rings, eyeball bouncy balls, or whatever other Halloween related non-edible product you can find to hand out to those eager children ringing your doorbell. Regardless of your personal decision on how to potentially improve the health of your family or community this year, please realize that the ever popular “C”-andy is not changing any time soon and we need to teach our children how to live a healthy lifestyle day to day. As we’ve heard before, balance is absolutely crucial and helping your family to view the entire Halloween experience as the real “treat” will ensure healthier holiday seasons for years to come.
Links to aforementioned website articles:
–Caitlin Kiarie, RDN
Regisitered Dietitian Nutritionist
Founder of Mom-n-Tot Nutrition