Tips for a Happy, Healthy Halloween!
Halloween creates a lot of mixed emotions for me. I LOVE to get dressed up, be silly and have fun. And OK, I love my sweets! But I am NOT a fan of celebrating all the sugary and highly processed treats that come with this holiday.
The reality is, we can’t ignore the rampant childhood obesity epidemic we are facing. It is not just theory that sugar weakens our kids’ immune systems, causes tooth decay, disrupts sleep, and leads to moodiness, energy highs and lows and lack of focus.
I suppose we should apologize to teachers everywhere for what they have to endure the day after Halloween! Yikes, probably the whole month after Halloween if kids today are anything like I was as a kid!
Most families I speak with are already struggling with how to navigate our junk food society, which isn’t just a Halloween problem, but a day to day problem. Grocery stores may be extra-frightful this time of year, but who are we kidding, sugar is lurking everywhere. You might expect that a can of Coca Cola has 39g of sugar, but did you know that a personal size bottle of Tropicana OJ has 42g?!
And who knew that baked beans had 56g sugar? Yowzers. OK, so you try to go the healthy route and choose muesli over fruit loops for your kids….whoops! Fruit loops have 24g, muesli 42g! I could give many more examples of sauces, cereals, “light” dressings that have double the amount of sugar as the regular version….but I think you catch my drift.
It is not easy to navigate this junk food jungle, especially with all the money pouring in to continue the deceptive and sneaky marketing campaigns that fool even many of my health conscious friends.
I get that the problem is complicated. I understand that it’s not easy to break habits or deal with peer pressure or sugar addiction, but let me ask you, is it really all that easy to deal with the recurring colds, mood swings and extra pounds?
And how are we supposed to impart body confidence in our children when we aren’t teaching the values of healthy eating that will support that?
Well I think we could start with redefining what Halloween is really about. I think it’s fair to say we’ve been tricked into celebrating the wrong treats! And with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, if you aren’t paying attention, a pound a week weight gain is not uncommon this time a year.
Taking action now can redirect the path you will head down for the rest of this year. Let’s not get to New Year’s resolutions and have to set the same old resolution again, instead let’s already be on the path of making healthier choices for ourselves and our children. Imagine all that becomes possible when you’re already rockin’ your health goals!
Here are some tips to get you started right now:
Don’t make the candy the main event.
In our house, Halloween is a month long event. We always go to 2 super fun Fall Festivals, and spend the day exploring the farms, dancing to good music, conquering corn mazes, riding the cow train, picking out pumpkins, throwing beanbags, hula hooping and other fun games. We enjoy decorating our house with scarecrows, bats, ghosts and goblins, and love curling up to watch Charlie Brown’s Halloween (or age appropriate scary movies) while munching on popcorn and roasted pumpkin seeds.
And of course, we always have a blast carving (or painting for my little one!) our pumpkins. If your kids are old enough, get your spook on at a neighborhood haunted house. Or jump on the “Booing” bandwagon and secretly share some healthy treats with your neighborhood friends. Check out these adorable ghost door hangers here.
And don’t forget to let your kids HAVE FUN in their costumes! This year, we had a whole family pirate theme going on, so decided to have a friend take some fun photos at a park. I have the cutest pictures of my pirate boys swinging from monkey bars and climbing trees. THESE are the memories that will last a lifetime!
Host a Party and invite your guests to bring a healthy, spooky treat to share.
I hosted a party for toddlers last year and everyone stepped up with really creative, healthy snacks! It was such a fun time that we’re doing it again this year, and I can’t wait to see what everyone brings. Get some ideas from the picture I shared from our party last year, or find some healthy snack inspiration here or on Pinterest. I found some delicious recipes by searching Gluten-Free Halloween snacks. Show your kids, and the families you invited just how much delicious healthy treats can be! Try out a fun Halloween craft (search Pinterest for “Halloween Crafts” for endless inspiration!), and your party is sure to be Spooktacular! 😉
Eat a healthy meal before you head out.
This one is critical. If you have kiddos that want to start Trick-or-Treating the second they are home from school, then be a step ahead of them. Prepare a nutritious meal the night before! I promise, putting a real food meal in your kids bellies will make a world of difference. They won’t start binging on the candy right away, and when they do start noshing, their blood sugar will be more stable. Which means fewer moody and tantrum-y children! A win for us all, right?! Think protein, healthy fat, veggies. A few quick meals my boys love are Quinoa with roasted veggies, black beans, avocado and salsa, almond butter, banana, strawberry sandwiches, and turkey and veggie quesadillas. We enjoy these all Gluten/ Dairy-free, but they work either way.
Be a trail blazer and give out non-food items or healthy candy.
OK, this one might not win the hearts of all your trick-or-treaters, but I bet more than you think. I know my boys love “treasure box” type toys. And the parents might just get inspired for next year. It has to start somewhere, right?! Look online or places like Oriental Trading Company for bulk discount items like glow necklaces, stickers, temporary tattoos, stampers and the like. If you want to give healthy candy, here are some great options with real ingredients. A good rule of thumb, always, is if you don’t recognize an ingredient as something your grandmother would have eaten, it probably shouldn’t go in your body!
Note for those with food intolerances: I think the act of trick-or-treating is such a fun part of Halloween and I wouldn’t want my kiddos to miss out! That being said, my youngest has a serious intolerance to gluten, dairy, food coloring and certain preservatives. So I bought some of the healthy candy items listed above, and will take a couple pieces with me when we go trick-or-treating so he can enjoy some candy with his older brother and friends. As for what to do with all the loot he gets? See my next tip. 🙂
Have a Post-Halloween Plan.
The best plan, in my opinion, is to get it out of your house ASAP. You can’t eat what’s not there, right?! Again, this is a good rule of thumb not just for Halloween. Keep your kitchen temptation free and you’ll naturally choose the healthy options. One strategy for getting the Halloween candy out of the house is to make a trade. Depending on the age of the kid, that might mean a toy you know they’ve been eyeing or maybe straight cash. Sure there are arguments against this, but it’s the lesser of two evils, so I say trade away!
An even better option is the Halloween Candy Buy Back, which is partners with Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages to troops, their children, vets and care givers. The dentist that started this program was actually my dentist in college in Madison! Good on ya, Dr. Kammer. 🙂 Within 15 miles of my house where I live just outside of Austin, there are now 15 participating dentists. I love this! This is a great way to start a new tradition of giving with your kids this Halloween.
I hope you found an idea or two that you’ll put in to practice to make this Halloween healthy and happy for you and your kids. Be safe, and have fun!
Here’s to a Happy, Healthy Halloween!