Many people believe the concept of "healthy Halloween" is a classic oxymoron. It’s true that once we all were children who loved Halloween and collecting all the candy we could fit into our treat bag. But parents who want their children to have healthy teeth and bodies may take one for the team and risk being regarded as "Halloween Scrooges" in an effort to minimize the impact of Halloween on their kids and the environment. Here are a few ways to help your family have a healthier Halloween:
How You Can Have a Healthier Halloween
Gone are the days of trick-or-treating for endless hours and coming home with a bag of loot almost too heavy to carry. Many people are opting for healthier choices these days, and experiencing many health benefits. When Halloween comes around each year, many parents struggle to maintain the healthy habits that they have helped their children develop. Parents don’t generally want to be viewed as “Halloween Scrooges,” yet they want to limit the sugar that their kids eat.
Too many kids still eat more sugar than ever. This leads to a high consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which is known to be a leading contributor to childhood obesity. High fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn and enzymes, and comes with plenty of nutritional pitfalls. Reducing the amount of high fructose corn syrup that your children consume should be a priority.
The key to a healthy Halloween is compromise. Kids are exposed to so much media hype and so much peer pressure that they can be easily lured into making unhealthy choices when it comes to snacks. Compromise with your kids and allow a small amount of the highly-coveted sugary stuff in exchange for several good choices. By allowing small amounts and monitoring the consumption of sugary snacks carefully, you can help prevent obesity and tooth decay, as well as many other potential unhealthy side effects--while keeping your kids happy.
Parents should be prepared for a possible negative reaction from their kids when they limit the Halloween candy. Some parents opt to allow small amounts of Halloween candy for the first few days after the holiday and then simply throw out the leftovers. Some parents opt to store some candy in the freezer, so that it can be enjoyed at a later date and spread out over a longer period of time— this helps to avoid the possibility of binging right after Halloween.
Offering other types of treats in lieu of Halloween candy is another popular option. Instead of a bagful of candy, you can put together a basket of fun and active toys, like balls, Frisbees or other simple things that encourage kids to be more active. When kids are active and having fun, the loss of Halloween candy is quickly forgotten!
Fortunately, there are plenty of options when it comes to limiting Halloween candy for your kids. While it may seem “unfair” or “mean” to your kids, parents are responsible for helping children learn to make healthy choices. Rather than pile on the candy, find some fun and healthy Halloween recipes that incorporate fruits and veggies instead of candy--yet make them in fun eyeball shapes or design a healthy “graveyard” using hummus, guacamole and plenty of cut up veggies for tombstones. When you can make healthy foods fun, you will find that your children are more likely to choose them.
The long term benefits of limiting excess sugar and additives from the diets of children are countless. Teach your children about healthy choices at a young age and you can help prevent many of the possible diseases and chronic conditions that could develop later as a result of poor habits.
Halloween Health 101!
Halloween may present a special challenge for parents, with the sudden huge influx of sugary snacks into the house. Limiting the amount of junk that your kids eat is important, but helping them learn how to make healthy choices is even more important.
Many parents are very creative when it comes to limiting their child’s intake of Halloween candy. Feeding kids before trick-or-treating can help because if the kids are full, they are less likely to binge on the candy right away.
It is important to be clear with your children about the limits surrounding their Halloween candy. Be clear that you are not taking the candy away as a punishment, but as a way to support them in making healthy food choices. By compromising and allowing small amounts, you may be able to significantly limit the candy and help your children learn how to enjoy some “forbidden” foods in moderation.
Instead of focusing on the candy, use healthy foods to celebrate the Halloween season. Plenty of healthy recipes that use fruits and veggies can be found, and when kids are eating festive, fun foods (even when they are made from veggies), they will learn to enjoy their healthy choices. Avoid having the excess candy in house by purchasing candy you may hand out at the last minute and getting rid of any leftovers—don’t let your kids see you binging on the sugary stuff! Not only will you regret it, you are setting a terrible example.
Some parents try a “buy back” plan for Halloween candy. Many kids are motivated by getting a few bucks, so you might want to consider buying their candy from them. The less they eat, the more money they can get, if you work out a certain price per pound!
Keeping plenty of tasty and nutritious snacks on hand will help kids get full of healthy foods, rather than reach for the candy when they want a snack. The occasional Halloween treat is not terribly harmful if they have filled up on good foods first.
Negotiate the limits and enforce them. Kids often need plenty of guidance when it comes to the temptations of Halloween candy. Be sure that you are focusing on the positive effects of not eating the candy, rather than using it as a punishment. When kids feel that they somehow got “ripped off” by having no Halloween candy, then they are more likely to sneak or stash the candy somewhere and rebel a bit at other healthy choices.
Use your best parental judgment when it comes to limiting your child’s Halloween candy. Offer plenty of healthy alternatives. If you are truly worried about your child’s obesity or other health condition, you must take the limits far more seriously. However, if your child has learned the value of making healthy choices, then you can allow them to continue to do so and they will probably eat very little Halloween candy on their own.
To set a good example, you can hand out healthier alternatives to Halloween candy to the trick-or-treaters that come to your house--think raisins, pretzels, stickers, granola, pumpkin or sunflower seeds or other healthy, tasty treats.
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In good health,
Cheryl Wahl, RHN, CPCC
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