October 16, 2018
Three Children In Halloween Costumes Trick Or Treating

Trick Your Kids with Healthy Treats

by Amanda Z. Naprawa  

When I was a kid, Halloween meant grabbing the king-size pillowcase and going door-to-door until it was filled to the brim. I spent the next several weeks stuffing way too many chocolates into my mouth. Inevitably, this also resulted in at least one cavity (that I can recall) and more than a few stomachaches.

Now that I have children of my own, I am a bit more concerned about the amount of candy my ghosts and goblins get as they run up and down the streets knocking on neighbors’ doors. Like most Americans, my kids already consume a lot of added sugar and fat. The typical Halloween handout is going to significantly add to that total.

As I prepare for Halloween this year, I am hoping to balance out the multitude of candy with some other options for the trick-or-treaters that come to my door. After all, while natural sugars in foods are a necessary part of fueling your child’s body, too much added sugar can quickly lead to weight gain and tooth decay. Excess added sugar consumption has also been linked with increased rates of diabetes, most recently in this study from the University of California, San Francisco.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend that no more than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugars. As a reference, a typical 8-year-old girl is advised to consume 1,400 to 1,600 calories per day. That means less than about 150 calories a day from added sugars from all sources. Thus, it makes sense to try to put some reasonable limitations on the Halloween treats. For example, did you know that a typical Halloween candy splurge of even just a few handfuls of bite-size candies can add an additional 600 calories (half of which may come from sugars) to your kid’s day?

Healthier (but still fun) handouts

Choosing to make your Halloween handout healthier doesn’t mean the kids will hate coming to your house. Rather, think creatively about options other than candy. If you want to hand out edible treats, focus on snacks that are low in added sugar and fats and high in fiber and other nutrients, such as organic fruit snacks or fresh tangerines with drawn on jack-o-lantern faces. Consider passing out pre-packaged 100-calorie snack packs with whole-grain goldfish crackers, whole-grain pretzels, or raisins. Another option is sugar-free hot chocolate or apple cider packets for kids to warm up with when they get home.

You can also decide to forgo passing out edible treats altogether. Remember, there are many children with dietary constraints, and passing out non-edible goodies makes the holiday inclusive for everyone. Glow sticks, pencils, bead jewelry, funny sunglasses, packets of stickers, or those big black plastic spider rings are all fun items for kids to get, and you won’t have to worry about anyone getting something they shouldn’t have. Your fellow parents will appreciate it too.

Healthy Halloween at home

While planning healthier handouts this year, why not consider making fun and festive but healthy treats to eat at home as well? Roast the seeds from the pumpkins you carved, and let your kids try adding different flavors (who knew cumin would taste good on pumpkin seeds?). A vegetable tray in the shape of a jack-o-lantern, yummy pumpkin muffins , and banana ghost pops are just some of the ideas we are going to try in our house this year. And I’m looking forward to serving my kids a glass of water with eerie eyeball ice cubes inside.

Finally, health care providers recommend that you make sure to send your kids out trick-or-treating with a full stomach. Give them a healthy dinner beforehand, which will help reduce their temptation to fill up on candy. Halloween is a lot of fun, and with a few small changes, it can be a little bit healthier as well.