6 Tricks (or Treats) for a Healthy Halloween
Kids love Halloween, and why shouldn’t they? First, they get to dress up as whatever they want. More importantly, it’s the one holiday where they have a free pass to eat as much junk as their tummies can handle.
Of course, a kid’s favorite part of Halloween is a nightmare for health-conscious parents. You have the choice between raining on your child’s parade or dealing with a crazed sugar zombie.
As a Registered Dietitian and mom of three, CHLI’s Erika Wong has had to figure out a healthy balance, so her kids can enjoy their fun while not running wild. Here are her tips for how to stay healthy (and still have fun) on Halloween!
The best thing to do is make health all part of the spirit of the Halloween holiday! Here are a few things Wong does in her family.
1. Eat a balanced (but spirited) dinner
Start the celebration early with a balanced dinner before heading out for trick or treating. A big dinner will fill your kids up and keep them from bingeing when they get home.
These are some ideas for healthy Halloween treats:
• Spooky chili with “finger” weenies
• Jack-o-lantern quesadillas with eye and mouth cut out of the tortilla
• PB and J sandwiches in the shape of a pumpkin or ghost using a cookie cutter
2. Keep the bags small
Send them out with small (er) trick-or-treating bags—not huge buckets! Much like with plate size, smaller buckets help keep your kids from going crazy. Also, not having too much candy to start with will help post-Halloween
3. Make it educational
Make this a teachable moment on self-regulation! Being a parent isn’t just about telling your kids what to do. It’s about helping them figure out their limits and what makes them feel good or bad. Kids who are allowed to indulge in their Halloween stash will figure out just how much candy is “too much” for their small bellies.
Part of the magic of the night is sorting all the candy when they get home. For example, Wong helps her older kids decide how much candy to eat that night. Younger kids will need some more guidance here. They’ll probably go a little wild, but one night of too much sugar isn’t going to kill them.
The costumes and decorations may be put away after the big day is over, but the candy lingers. Since being the candy police is no fun, these are a few good ways to guide your kids into choosing healthy.
1. It’s all about balance
Wong still allows her kids to have full access to their candy for the next few days, but timing is critical. For instance, she’ll allow candy during meal or snack times along with other protein-rich foods, fruit, or vegetables.
2. Help your kids connect the dots
Children aren’t wired to connect actions and consequences very well. Help them make the con-nection that if they’re feeling sluggish or gross, they probably ate too much candy!
3. Know when to pack it up.
Holidays don’t last forever, and at a certain point, extra candy needs to get stowed for special occasions and treats (or tossed in the trash when they aren’t looking)
To make this transition less abrupt, you can set aside candy at the beginning, so the free rein on candy ends naturally.
Of course, parents need to do what feels right for their family since every kid is different. But following these tricks can help make Halloween as fun as possible for everyone (including you). Halloween can be another step on the road to raising health-conscious adults!