If the thought of Halloween brings nightmares of your children amped up on sugar, wrestling with stomachaches, and breeding cavities with every bite of candy, you can rest easy. We’ve culled a few ideas about how you can celebrate Halloween on the healthier side — and it still includes treats for the kids!
Halloween, apparently, is a much-loved holiday — 158 million Americans participate in Halloween festivities each year with the purchase of nearly 600 million pounds of candy for the spooky holiday. That’s equivalent to the weight of six Titanic ships! So who’s eating all of this candy?
Well, we are. The average American consumes 3.4 pounds of candy at Halloween, with kids consuming up to 7,000 calories from the sweet stuff. Kids would have to trick-or-treat a 180-mile route — 60 hours — to burn off what they eat in candy. And the sugar? The average trick-or-treater consumes about 3 cups at Halloween, which is equivalent to 220 sugar packets.
But you and yours don’t have to be part of these scary statistics.
How to Make it a Healthy Halloween
Last year we brought you some tips on healthier Halloween candies. This year we’re back with a few more ideas about how to make Halloween as healthy as possible. Sure, it’s candy. But some choices are better than others. We’ll guide you through those mounds of sugar and provide a few suggestions for responsible trick-or-treating and non-food alternatives to candy.
Choose Smart, Not Smarties
Once again we emphasize choosing candy that contains something other than sugar, like candy bars that offer a little protein in the form of peanuts, peanut butter and almonds — which also provide a small dose of vitamin E. Don’t forget that chocolate is plant-derived and contains less sugar than its artificial candy counterparts. Nuts and chocolate are more filling than sugar alone, so your kids will eat less. And don’t forget the health benefits of dark chocolate — it’s full of antioxidants.
Shun the Sugar
Just because a candy is low in fat and calories doesn’t mean it’s a healthier option. And sugary candies full of artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors fall into this category. So avoid the lollipops, Jolly Ranchers and Nerds. Gummy bears practically glow with artificial coloring, candy corn is filled with high-fructose corn syrup and gummy worms are coated in sugar — frightening! And research has shown that because munching on snacks low in calories and fat doesn’t satisfy hunger, your kids will eat more of these artificial confections.
Tried-and-True Trick-or-Treat Tips
Don’t send your kids out on the candy safari with an empty stomach. Make sure they have a good dinner beforehand, and they’ll be less likely to come home and gorge. And make sure trick-or-treat bags are size appropriate for your child — your 7-year-old doesn’t need a king-sized pillow case. Keep the trick-or-treat route within a reasonable radius. You’ll be more familiar with the folks passing out the candy, and the kids won’t get overloaded with treats.
Moderate the Candy Mountain
You’re the parent, and you can say what and how much. When your kids dump the evening’s spoils on the floor and start counting and swapping, join in. Gather the candies you’re OK with your kids eating, and moderate their consumption over the next few weeks. As for the sugary no-no’s, don’t throw them in the garbage just yet. Save them for the Christmas holidays. They make the perfect trimmings for gingerbread houses — Sweet Tarts for roof shingles, Nerds for a cobblestone pathway. You get the idea.
Doling Out at Your Door
When it’s your house, you’re in charge of what goes into those trick-or-treat bags. Stick to the mini-sized candy bars. Throw in some organic fruit snacks, chocolate-covered raisins, sugarless chewing gum, or mini bags of pretzels. Better yet, go with some non-food alternatives — they’re a fun addition to any trick-or-treat bag. Options abound: Halloween-themed stickers, fake tattoos, pencils and pocket toys. Choose from spider rings, glow sticks, eye patches, vampire fangs, mini Play-Doh, Slinkys and crayon packs. But avoid the whistles and noise-makers — the neighborhood parents will thank you.