Nutrition

Sugar Doesn't Have to Be Scary

Tips and Tricks for a Healthier Halloween

Main Article Content

Tips and Tricks for a Healthier Halloween

Halloween trick-or-treating is a time-honored tradition for many children. However, too much sugar can ruin mealtime and make children feel sick. It’s important to balance healthy food and junk food, no matter what day of the year. For children, good nutrition is especially needed for growth, health and learning.

Every Halloween, parents around the country face unending conversations with their children about candy, self-control and why sleeping on a pillow stuffed with candy isn’t a good idea.

With 89 percent of children participating in Halloween activities, it’s important that parents have some tricks for when their kids question why they can’t have more treats. To avoid sugary meltdowns, consider these tips:

  • Set expectations. Decide ahead of time how much of the sweet stuff children can eat when they come home from trick-or-treating, as well as during the week in school lunches or as a small treat after dinner.
  • Set limits. Keep your candy in the kitchen, not your child’s bedroom, to limit when treats are eaten. Whatever the size of your child’s candy container (or pillowcase), divide up the candy in order to put limits on the amount eaten.
  • Find other uses for candy. A variety of programs are available if you’re looking to donate candy to troops, sell it or give it away. Additionally, if you don’t want your child’s candy to go to waste, you can freeze it, bake with certain types of candy, add it to trail mix or put into gift baskets.
  • Don’t forget other Halloween traditions. Candy is certainly a large part of Halloween, but don’t forget the other fun traditions, too. Involve your children in decorating the house, carving pumpkins and have them help create their own costumes. Getting them involved with other activities can help take the attention away from candy. Many parents have a visit from the Switch Witch on Halloween night. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, this good witch visits your home at night and trades your child’s Halloween candy for toys.

How to Keep Halloween Safe

October is also Halloween Safety Month, a good time to talk with your child about safety while they’re out on treat patrol. These tips can help keep your child’s Halloween fun and safe:

  • Healthy snacks. Before going out to trick-or-treat, offer a nutritious snack or a light meal to cut down on the amount of treats eaten.
  • Safe treats. While trick-or-treating, children shouldn’t snack on any of their treats. They should wait to come home and have their parents inspect their treats to assure they’re safe to eat. In addition, all commercially wrapped treats should be examined for any signs of tampering, such as unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes and tears in wrappers. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Food allergies. If your child suffers from allergies, be sure to read all labels on your kid’s treats to ensure no allergens are present. In addition, don’t allow your child to eat any homemade treats they collect, since you don’t know what ingredients the treats may contain.
  • Choking hazards. If you have young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candy or small toys.

As a parent, it’s easy to fall into the candy trap and feel pressured to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. However, you don’t need to. You can give away non-food treats, such as stickers, toys or temporary tattoos. Snacks can be small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum or candy, trail mix, raisins or popcorn.

It’s important to keep Halloween in perspective. It’s one day a year, and a little bit of Halloween candy is usually okay, especially if your family follows a well-rounded diet the rest of the year. It’s really a balance between fun and nutrition. Nevertheless, it’s good to have a plan for leftover treats, especially when your children start asking for candy with their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Interested in hearing more from Northwestern Medicine? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E‑Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements.