Halloween doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to health. Whether it’s children tearing through a pillowcase full of fun-size candy bars, or adults eating bags of candy before they have the chance to hand them out to trick-or-treaters, the temptation to go on a sugar spree can be pretty high. If you find yourself struggling with piles of candy around Halloween, here are some tips to help make the holiday a little healthier:
1. Use smaller containers.
Instead of using a large bag for trick-or-treating, equip kids with smaller ones. They’ll end up with less candy overall, but, if you encourage them to take one piece of candy per house they visit, they’ll still be able to visit plenty of houses. Entice kids to use smaller containers by buying special, fun ones, or decorating them to match their costumes.
2. Eat before you go out.
It can be hard for a kid to resist the temptation to dive into a pile of marshmallow pumpkins and miniature chocolate bars, but making sure they eat dinner first can help. Filling kids up with healthy foods can help reduce some of the temptation to load of up on candy when they get home. If your kids are going to be out trick-or-treating long enough to need a snack, pack some nuts, apples, or other healthy treats to keep them going. This will help keep them from diving right into their candy before you have a chance to inspect it and portion it out.
3. Hand out healthy or non-edible items.
Handing out healthy treats or small toys can help make Halloween healthier for you and the kids who visit your house. Snack-sized packets of pretzels or graham crackers, clementine oranges, bouncy balls, glow sticks, small toys, stickers, or temporary tattoos are all just as fun for kids as candy.
4. Portion out candy.
After trick-or-treating, have each kid portion out enough candy to have a few pieces each day. When they ask for some, serve it alongside a healthy snack — sliced fruit, or celery and nut butter. After a week or so of this, the novelty of the candy will wear off, and you can discard the rest.
5. Donate uneaten candy.
See if your child’s dentist has a candy buy-back program. (Some offer as much as $1 per pound, for up to five pounds.) This candy is then bundled into care packages to send to soldiers overseas. Local police stations or fire departments will sometimes take leftover candy as well, and offer it to emergency workers.
6. Use the candy somewhere else.
If you do a lot of baking around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, why not save leftover Halloween candy until then? Chocolate and hard candies keep very well, and chocolate bars can be frozen for later use. If you have any autumn birthdays to host, you can also use leftover Halloween candy to fill a piñata or place in goody bags. Halloween candy also makes for great gingerbread house decorations.
7. Host a healthier Halloween party.
If you’re having people over, plan a party with plenty of healthy alternatives. Set up party games that get kids moving and burning off energy. Provide healthy snacks, like almond biscuits shaped like fingers, peeled grapes, bananas decorated like ghosts, and oranges decorated like pumpkins. Don’t forget the drinks, too — soda can contain as much sugar as candy, so offer alternatives like flavored seltzer, water, low-fat milk, or real fruit juice instead.
The excitement of getting a huge haul of candy is part of what makes Halloween fun. After the trick-or-treating is over, though, the excitement of it starts to fade pretty quickly. By sensibly portioning out candy, donating or re-using the leftovers, and taking steps to make sure that kids (and adults) eat plenty of healthy foods, you can make sure you have a healthier Halloween.