5 Tips for a Happy (Healthier) Halloween

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • I love Halloween. No, wait...let me rephrase: I LOVE Halloween! The dressing up, the parties, the gobs and gobs of free candy. Plus, my birthday is the day before so birthday cake, ice cream and extra attention have always been part of my Halloween package too. What's not to love?


    The bulk of my trick-or-tricking career was in the 70's and early 80's...a time when all we really worried about were razor blades in the apples (but who ever ate the apples anyway?). We spent our days riding bikes all over the neighborhood and running around with our friends until dark - no computers (well, how much Atari could we really do), very little television (I think we had 4 or 5 channels then; definitely no satellite or cable at our house) and certainly we didn't think about stuff like trans fats, antioxidants, organic food, etc. We also were blissfully ignorant of any impending nationwide obesity epidemic.

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    So after we would get all our loot, my friends, sister and I would gather together and start the trading process. I was never really big on the hard candy and gum-give me chocolate or give me death. After the negotiations subsided, I would then proceed to eat as much candy as I could stuff in my belly in one sitting. For days after, I would do the same thing until all the goods were gone.


    As I reflect on these practices, I shudder.


    Now Halloween 2007 is upon us and I have my own little trick-or-treaters. Compared to the 1970's/early 80's, the world is a different place. We all seem to spend so much more of our time inside, on the computer and/or watching TV. We also spend a lot of time, energy and money on fad diets: fat-free/low-fat, low-carb/no-carb, high-protein, sugar-free, glycemically indexed...it goes on and on.


    How has this helped us? Is it really safer for our children to stay inside, close by as we work side-by-side on our computers or watch hours of TV, rather than have them outside running wild, running free...just running? Are we skinnier or more fit since we have largely implemented reduced fat or high protein diets? The answer is a resounding no.


    But I digress....


    Let's get back to Halloween. As the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season....and by this I, of course, refer to the season of overeating...what can we do to make this holiday the most fun while keeping it as healthy (or at least as non-unhealthy) as possible?


    Some Halloween tips to do just that:


    1. Get out and walk

    You don't necessarily need to get all dressed up, but do get out there and go trick-or-treating with your kids. If you don't have any kids, borrow some! Do not --I repeat: DO NOT-- drive from house to house. Get out and walk the neighborhood. If you do not live in a safe walking neighborhood, drive to one that is and park your car at the entrance, walking the rest of the evening away. This will help you and the kids get some much needed exercise, as well as spend some quality time together (and it lets you keep an eye on them as well).


    2. Moderate what you and kids are eating

    Your kids are not going to take it upon themselves to moderate how much candy they eat. It never really seems like they are too full to indulge in the sweet stuff, does it? As the mother of a 4-year-old, I am continually amazed at how an "I'm so full" in the face of chicken and vegetables becomes "I'm starving" when they spot the ice cream truck.


    To help avoid binges, melt-downs and other momentary losses of control, you must plan ahead. Allow your children (and yourself) to select 1 or 2 pieces of candy to enjoy with a balanced packed lunch or each night after a healthy dinner. If that is too hard and you find it impossible to shut the lid of Pandora's Box once opened, pitch the whole batch. It is just not worth the temptation.

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    3. Substitute the good stuff

    My name is Cindy and I am a chocoholic. There. I've admitted it and that's the first step. But I am very pleased to report that chocolate has a lot of really great qualities and, in moderation, can very much be a part of a healthful lifestyle.


    Studies have shown that dark chocolate has high levels of antioxidants and may also help lower blood pressure. It also has been associated with the release of endorphins, our "feel-good hormones." Same ones you get from a runner's high or from sex.


    You do need to trade up to get these benefits however: most commercial chocolate candy will not do the job. These positive benefits are only associated with dark --not milk-- chocolate. Mass-produced commercial chocolate may also be chock full of trans fat, which should be avoided. Check out your local organic grocery store for the really good dark stuff.


    4. Focus on the fun, not the food

    There is much more to Halloween than just the edibles. It can be loads of fun to construct the perfect costume and show it off at school/the office/any number of parties. Even if you are not the dressing up type, it is fun to check out the creativity of others...it might even get you in the spirit for next year!


    There are tons of fun Halloween activities and party ideas to enjoy with your kids, your friends and with other loved ones. Thank goodness for the Internet-just search for Halloween games or ideas and see what you can "scare up."


    5. Give yourself a break

    If you fall into a "circa-1970's" candy binge, forgive yourself and move on. Everyone is entitled to falling off the wagon at some point or another. Don't beat yourself up. Accept that you over-indulged and try to make your next snack or meal more appropriately balanced. And throw in a little extra exercise in the days surrounding. This can make a world of difference in getting you back on track, both physically and mentally.


    As a last note, I must admit to you: our current neighborhood is a hotbed for trick-or-treaters and, indeed, I am armed and ready with a bounty of candy. No fruit will be dispensed from my doorstep -- there is a time and place for everything. And besides, I really don't want to get T.P.'ed (these kids are professionals).


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    I think I hear my doorbell now...Happy Halloween!


    More Halloween Goodness: Get fun Halloween recipes you can make with your kids!


Published On: October 30, 2007