Halloween is certainly a unique time of year. When else can you get away with burying a plastic spider in the doughnut box at work, or walk around the neighborhood dressed like your Freudian fantasy of choice? For many, Halloween represents a time of carefree fun and indulgence…but if you’re not careful, all those treats can add up to a few nasty tricks. In the short-term, these tricks can manifest themselves on the scale or at the dentist, which may or may not be that detrimental, depending on the person. However, in the long-term, how your family handles Halloween can make the difference between reinforcing healthy eating habits, or completely undermining everything you’ve taught them about nutrition thus far.
Don’t get me wrong, I love candy just as much as the next person, and this post is not a plea to stage a protest at the candy aisle of your local Wal-mart. On the contrary, this post lists 8 steps for ensuring that you get the most enjoyment you can out of your Halloween treats, while minimizing the tricks as much as possible. (And as you read, see if you can come up with some more ideas and examples to share, especially if you like the idea of Halloween-flavored Clif Kid bars!)
1. Choose Healthy Alternatives – Who made the rule that you could only give out candy on Halloween? I recall growing up that one house on our street gave out donuts on Halloween, while another house further down the street gave out apples. Now granted the donut house might actually have been worse than the candy houses, but at least they get points for thinking outside the box. But the apple folks were perhaps on the right track – and nowadays there is a whole host of healthier, alternative options that are sweet enough to be considered a treat, but healthy enough to be in a lunchbox. Instead of candy this year, consider handing out dried fruit, trail mix, or granola bars.
2. Trailside Treats - Just because you’re stuck with a bunch of candy doesn’t mean you need to eat it all before Thanksgiving. Consider utilizing a “treat bin” in your pantry that your family is only allowed to raid on special (and hopefully active!) occasions. Our family loves packing Halloween goodies on climbing days, and I know plenty of parents that use singular M n M’s or Skittles as
bribes motivation to keep happy hikers hopping along. This will not only make the sugary fun last longer throughout the year, but you’ll be using it in situations where the sugar provides valuable fuel (that is burned off right away!)
3. Moderation - I think this one is the biggie that we as Americans just can’t seem to get. One or two Hershey Kisses won’t ruin anyone’s diet, but one or two king-size Snickers bars probably will. It’s all about balance, folks. Oh yeah, and your dentist will probably appreciate it if you don’t exercise your rights in moderation right before bedtime…
4. Spirit of Giving - It’s never to early to tap into the spirit of giving. Many dentist and orthodontist offices participate in a “buy back” program that sends candy overseas to our troops. It might seem like somewhat of a trivial act, but it’s a great opportunity to teach your child an object lesson about giving (as well as get a lot of extra calories off of your hands!) If you’re in Charlotte, you can drop your candy off at Charlotte Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics any time before November 9.
5. In the Name of Education - Young children love counting, sorting, and organizing games (too bad they grow out of it shortly after they hit puberty…). Take advantage of the colorful teachable moments your Halloween candy presents to your pre-schooler.
6. Drive-bys are Cheating- Nothing gets on my nerves more than parents that are too lazy to walk around the neighborhood with their kids. Unless you have some sort of medical condition that prevents you from walking, there is absolutely no reason to slowly drive behind your kids in a car. What a horrible example to set for your children. Get off your butt and walk around the neighborhood with your kiddos…and on a regular basis, not just Halloween!
7. Get Candy You Don’t Like – If you’ve got kids old enough to have formed strong opinions on what candy they do and do not like, this might be easier said than done. This is the first year that C will understand what’s going on, but in year’s past, our candy strategy has been as follows – I pick a bag, hubby picks a bag, and then we pick a bag that neigher of us like. Admittedly we sometimes start hiding the “good stuff” at the bottom of the bucket by the end of the night, but regardless of our own attempts to sabotage ourselves, we still end up with less junk food in the house.
8. Stand firm – It might sound like I’m being dramatic, but don’t take Halloween lightly. Other holidays with even more potential unhealthy temptations are lurking right around the corner. Set some boundaries at Halloween, and you’ll enter the holiday season feeling healthy, confident and strong. Cave in to all the treats now, and you’ll open the door for a whole slew of tricks in the coming months.
What are your family’s stances on Halloween candy? Do you set limitations on the amount of candy you and your children are allowed to consume? Are there any other strategies you employ to have a healthy and happy Halloween? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below – and you’ll automatically be entered to win a box of Clif Kid bars (in their seasonal Full Moon Brownie flavor!) Remember those “healthy alternatives” I mentioned in the very 1st tip – these tasty treats would be a PERFECT nutrition-filled option for your child’s Halloween party…The contest will run through Thursday, October 25, when a winner will randomly be selected and notified. Good luck to all, and Happy Halloween!