You can already see the big, BIG bags of candy, costumes and decorations flooding your local stores. Halloween is coming!! The good news is that it seems since 2014, when I wrote Halloween Alert: Do More Tricks than Treats This Year, obesity rates may have finally started to level off - although they are still high. However, it can still be incredibly challenging to navigate a holiday that’s driven by candy treats. This is especially true if you have a child with obesity or weight issues.
For others, maybe this year you simply want to make it a healthier Halloween for the whole family. I’ve put together ten ways you can preserve the fun while using swap-outs and creative alternatives in lieu of the candy and calories:** 1. Talk to your kids ahead of time, and involve them in planning a night of fun.** Let them plan choices for a light dinner buffet menu, involve them in the decorating theme, and most of all, let them feel like they are “running the show.” Start the process days before Halloween so you are able to focus on decorating, a healthier dinner and treats, and loads of pre-planned tricks.
A healthy bean chili, a salad bar, or a healthy pumpkin smoothie, are all kid-friendly and light meal ideas. Shifting the focus from the candy that’s being collected, to the fun in the home, can help to limit the candy aspect of the holiday. Feeding the kids a light meal before they go out to collect the candy can also help to limit how much candy they will want to eat that night.
2. Agree on how many candies can be enjoyed that night so you limit the battles ahead of time. If you get a pushback from your kids, involve the pediatrician who can help to “sell the deal” as an outside expert who cares for their health.
3. Agree ahead of time that the candy will be traded in or donated, and let the kids choose some reasonably priced non-food items for the swap out or cash. Have the gifts or special redeemable gift coupons ready for when the candy hand off occurs.
Apple and Peanut Butter Monster Mouth Treats
4. Get the kids excited about videos and selfies and photo opportunities to showcase their costumes so you shift the focus away from the food aspect of Halloween. Let the kids decorate picture frames with Halloween stickers and other craft items so they can frame their selfies. Consider having a costume parade and contest at home with categories that include scariest, goriest, funniest, and best homemade costume.
5. Have a “carve a mini pumpkin” contest and have mini trophies for different awards. The more activities you have that don’t involve food, the easier it is for kids to shift their focus on the candy aspect of the holiday.
6. Decorate small portable water bottles and have the kids carry them along as they trick or treat, so they constantly hydrate while they walk through the neighborhood. Drinking water during the evening will also help to limit the amount of candy they eat.
7. This year, shorten the outdoor experience and have the kids and their friends come back to watch a fun age-appropriate Halloween movie in your house. Your treats can include fruit with yogurt dip, air popped popcorn, hot cocoa made with skim milk, pumpkin soup, veggies and hummus, or yogurt parfaits. You can have coloring books, molding clay, or bead stringing activities for the really little kids, in case they get bored with the movie.
8. Other activities for before trick or treating can include: baking healthy pumpkin and fruit muffins with the kids, decorating homemade mini “healthy” pizzas, making healthy trail mix, making layered yogurt parfaits ahead of time. Having these healthier items ready when the kids come home allows you to do an easier candy swap out.
9. Let the kids know that you are not keeping the candy stash hidden in the house, even if you’ve done that previously. It’s incredibly hypocritical and a poor example if your kids see you eating the junk you’ve convinced them not to eat.
10. Consider having a dance off after the kids come back with non-food prizes. The extra physical activity will help balance any excess calories they’ve consumed.
Most experts recommend a give and take on Halloween so you avoid unpleasant battles. The goal is to limit candy – not to forbid it. Hopefully these tips will help you to start some new traditions and help you to achieve some healthy goals this Halloween!!
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”