How to have a healthy Halloween

By: Alison Dunn Oct 27, 2010
  Article

You can’t stop your kids – or you – from eating candy this Halloween, but you can do it in moderation

If you’re watching the calendar approach October 31 with dread, you’re not alone. For most parents, the advent of Halloween has become a time where their little monsters become, well, almost literally little monsters.

“Halloween is everywhere you look,” says Shannon Crocker, a registered dietitian with S. Crocker Consulting. “And it’s not just the candy they get going door-to-door. They get it at school, they get it at sports events and they get it at any party they might go to. It’s not just a one-night event anymore – Halloween is at least a week-long celebration.”

And that celebration can mean bad news for parents. Tiny chocolate bars, suckers, chips and more become the dietary preferences of our kids and, try as we might, it’s hard to pry those unhealthy foods out of our children’s hands (or our own, for that matter!). With continuing research finding a link between refined sugar and a whole host of health conditions like Type II diabetes, cancer, obesity and more, it makes sense that a diet high in Halloween treats can do a lot more harm than good.

Does that mean you have to toss out the goodie bag the minute it comes home? Not at all, says Crocker. Moderation is the key to enjoying Halloween treats, both for our kids and ourselves. Here are her tips on keeping Halloween consumption under control.

Stick to a healthy schedule: Even with Halloween parties, costume events and the big night itself, try to stick to your regular schedule of healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Make sure your kids are getting the healthy nutrients they need before diving into a chocolate bar or two. Plus, if kids are already full from a healthy dinner, they’re less likely to overdo it on the tiny (but plentiful) chocolate bars.

Broker a deal: You know your kids are going to come home with way too much candy, so why not make a deal with them to “buy back” some of that candy? Offer to trade them something they want (a movie, a book, a special outing) in exchange for some of their candy. You’d be surprised how quickly they hand over the goodies when an even bigger goodie is in sight.

Out of sight, out of mind: Don’t keep Halloween candy in the kids’ rooms or in a big bowl on the kitchen table. It’s too easily accessible to both you and the kids. Instead, hide it away in a cupboard to be doled out piecemeal as a treat. Once it’s out of sight, you might be surprised at how quickly your kids forget about it.

Ditch the candy – and the guilt: Yes, your mom probably told you there were lots of starving kids in Africa and to finish your plate. But unhealthy food isn’t going to do anyone any good, so at some point you can always let go of the guilt and dump the junk right in the garbage. (Or, if you want to be environmentally friendly, remove all the wrappers and put the candy in your green bin or compost pile.)
 
Shop smart: Don’t buy your own candy weeks before Halloween, or you’ll be sure to dig into it ahead of time. Stores aren’t going to run out of candy, so buy yours as close as you can to Halloween so you won’t be tempted. Also, try to buy the right amount for your neighbourhood so you don’t end up with any leftovers.

Set a good example: You don’t have to give out mini chocolate bars or chips for Halloween. Try handing out dollar store treats like bracelets, pencils, erasers or even sugar-free gum and show your kids (and others) that candy isn’t the only way to have a good Halloween.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.