Editor's note: This post was originally published October 23, 2015.
Halloween is right around the corner. Between carving pumpkins and organizing the perfect costume for your kids, you’re probably also bracing yourself for the deluge of candy that will start flooding into your home.
Halloween can be a challenging time year for parents, especially since many parents try to encourage their kids to make healthy choices all year long. From Halloween classroom parties, to the candy-stocked supermarket aisles, to all the candy advertisements on TV, it’s hard to avoid sweets!
Here’s an interesting fact: The average trick-or-treater consumes about 3 cups of sugar — roughly equivalent to 144 packets of sugar! Now that’s a scary thought!
Beyond the nutritional aspect, many of us have experienced a “not-so-entertaining” sugar moment with our kids. We had one in our house just last week, following one of the grandfather’s birthday celebrations, when our oldest snuck some cake and icing before bed. Can you relate? And the battles that can erupt over Halloween candy! I mean, my wife can get downright vicious (I’m kidding, kind of...).
Since Halloween celebrations often span the entire month of October, and candy consumption continues into November, it’s best to address the potential sugar overload before, during, and after trick-or-treating. Here are some recommendations:
1. Set expectations. Decide ahead of time what rules you’d like to set for trick-or-treating and candy consumption. Make sure you communicate those expectations clearly to your child. This season is actually the perfect time to talk to kids about moderation and healthier choices!
2. Fill up before trick-or-treating. Have the kids eat a healthy dinner beforehand, with plenty of produce, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Your kids will be less tempted (and less able) to fill up on sweets.
3. Safety reminders. Halloween is the day with the most child pedestrian accidents. Make sure to talk about safety before leaving the house. Set rules about only crossing the street at crosswalks, staying with an adult, looking both ways before crossing, and not running up ahead.
4. Hand out non-sugary foods or toys. Halloween can still be exciting without the sugar buzz. Here are some healthier alternatives that you can hand out to trick-or-treaters who come a-knocking:
- Non-candy edibles: Granola bars, mini rice krispies, pretzels, fruit lathers.
- Non-food treats: Small trinkets/toys, spooky pencils, stickers, glow sticks, temporary tattoos, spider rings, Eye (bouncy) balls, and mini flashlights.
- Halloween-themed healthy snacks. You can create cheddar popcorn balls in a plastic baggie with a jack-o-lantern faces decorated on the baggie; popcorn with green dye as “zombie slime”; or tangerines with jack-o-lantern faces.
5. Work in some exercise! Incorporate some exercise into your evening! Walk from house to house instead of driving (if your area allows), set a goal of how many houses you’ll walk to, and encourage your kids to wear pedometers to see how active they can be. Depending on how busy the sidewalk is, you can even ask them to hop, skip, or side-shuffle to the next house.
6. Trick-or-treat for a cause. Many local communities and organizations have special programs for Halloween, such as candy trade-in drives. On a national level, UNICEF has run a Halloween campaign since 1950. It’s a way to let your kids help other children who lack necessities such as food, clean water, and vaccines.
7. Remember, moderation is key. Teach your kids that it’s okay to eat sweets every once in awhile. They just shouldn’t eat their entire candy bag in one sitting!
8. Put the candy in the fridge. This may make the candy less “top of mind” and less accessible. The coldness and hardening also tends to slow down the consumption of candy and chocolates.
9. Balance candy and a healthy snack. Every time your children ask for candy, tell them to have something healthy first, such as a glass of water/milk, carrots, or an apple. The healthy snack will fill them up, and they’ll have less room for candy.
10. Set rules about how many pieces of candy they can eat per day. Is it one piece, two pieces, or three? You’re in charge on this one!
11. Donate some candy. Teach your children the power of giving to others. Have your kids make two piles (one to keep and one to give away) and donate a pile to a children’s hospital, senior home, or ask your dentist’s office if they can send the goodies to our troops abroad.
Pick one or more of these tips and help your family work towards a healthier Halloween. Remember that every little change can lead your family towards a healthier lifestyle!
Have any healthy Halloween candy substitutes or ideas you use? Share them with us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook Page.
Featured photo credit: Thinkstock