How to make Halloween healthier without being a killjoy

Written by: Laura Hoover

I know that Halloween is a favorite holiday for so many people. And I totally get the appeal—carving pumpkins, dressing up in cool costumes and getting free candy is pretty sweet. As a parent, I still love the holiday, but I’ve learned that I need to "tweak" my approach to the holiday to keep my kids from turning into little monsters.

For starters, the crowds in Chicago can be out of control, especially during the trick-or-treating hours hosted by neighborhood stores. It’s a far cry from the small-town experience I had a kid and, truth be told, it can a bit much for my youngest who tends to be crowd adverse. Our solution: Go early and make a quick exit. Sure, that means less candy for the kiddos, but isn’t that also a parenting win?!

I’ve also learned that not all kids like dressing up. Last year, we tried to get my four-year-old to wear three different costumes. She HATED them all. They were either too bulky or too “polky.” So, this year, we’re meeting her where she’s at: a simple cotton T-shirt with her favorite character on it and a matching cape. We’re definitely not going to win any costume awards, but she’s comfortable and that’s what matters.

And finally...let’s talk candy. As a dietitian, I’m very mindful of the fact that most kids (including my own) eat too much sugar on a regular basis. But on Halloween, I want my kids to be able to enjoy a reasonable amount of candy without feeling any guilt.

So, here are five simple strategies we use to relish in the gluttony of the holiday without straying too far from our wellness goals.

  1. Surround yourself with healthy foods. Before trick-or-treating, feed your family a healthy meal and be sure you’re stocked up on fruits, veggies and whole grains the rest of the week. Eating high-fiber foods helps us to feel full, which makes candy less appealing.
  2. Enjoy, then limit. After you get home from trick-or-treating, let your kids eat a few of their favorite treats, guilt-free. Then restore your normal rules about candy (i.e. limit it to one fun size snack per day). 
  3. Keep active. After your kids eat their Halloween candy, plan a movement activity (like riding scooters or going to the park) to help prevent the dreaded sugar high.
  4. Out of sight out of mind! Keep the leftover Halloween candy in a cabinet where it can’t be seen every time anyone walks by.
  5. Hand out healthier treats. Limit the amount of candy in your home by handing out individual bags of pretzels, stickers, pencils or fun erasers, instead.

Laura Hoover, dieticianLaura Chalela Hoover, MPH, RDN is a registered dietitian and media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her website, Smart Eating for Kids, teaches families simple, doable strategies that put healthier, happier mealtimes within reach.


Related articles: 

5 simple ways to help your picky eater

The top fall family activities in Chicago

How I got my toddler to eat like a normal human


Posted on October 20, 2016 at 2:14 PM