One Halloween nearly a decade ago, when my oldest was a toddler and I still idealistically believed I’d be able to shield my children forever from the evils of trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and Red Dye Number 5, I bought dried fruit instead of candy to give out to trick-or-treaters.
This move didn’t go over well. A sarcastic fifth grader said, “I’m sure the American Dental Association appreciates your idea of what candy is,” and declined my organic raisins. Moms openly gave me weird looks. I guess you can say I got lucky that my house didn’t end up TP’ed!
I’ve long since given up on the war against Halloween gluttony…but I do still try to make the holiday a little bit healthier than it might have been otherwise—both for my kids and the neighborhood.
Here’s how you can do the same:
For the neighborhood:
Skip the giant bags of preservative-filled goodies this year and instead offer trick-or-treaters:
-Non-edible items like temporary tattoos, stickers and Play Doh—check your dollar store for steals and deals!
For your kids:
-Insist on a healthy, well-rounded, fiber-filled dinner before letting the little ghouls and goblins hit the streets on Halloween night. Rice and beans and a lean protein, perhaps? Or serve Annie’s Shells and Cheddar Sauce for the must-have-mac-n-cheese picky eaters; with 12 g of protein per serving, little tummies will be full enough of the good stuff to not gorge on Halloween night.
-Offer them Halloween treats that contain some healthy ingredients, like apples dipped in caramel or honey, pumpkin dip made with honey, canned pumpkin puree and fat-free Greek yogurt, or gluten-free vanilla marshmallows that have use chocolate chip to create spooky “ghost eyes.”
-Set boundaries about how much Halloween candy can be ingested at a time. The night of trick-or-treating might be a time to allow for 5 or more goodies, but after that, limit it to one item a night so the entire month of November doesn’t become a sugar fest.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Halloween just isn’t Halloween for me without a serious sugar binge with my childhood favorites—the key is to make this a one-time indulgence and not an entire season of binging. Don’t eat candy corns at your desk at work until it’s Christmas cookie time—have them on Halloween night, then call it quits.
Exercise can also help you avoid weight gain this time of year. Be the parent who takes the kid up and down the streets, all night long—not the one who stays home with the bucket of goodies. Or wake up early that morning and take a long hike or run around the neighborhood to admire everyone’s Halloween decorations; you’ll never notice the miles flying by as you track who went all out with the fake cobwebs and coffin displays this year!
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 2 to 10.