As the air turns crisp and the leaves start to fall, the kids’ excitement for Halloween almost becomes palpable. Grocery stores start to become an extended avenue of candy in preparation for trick-or-treaters. As a parent, Halloween can be an interesting nutritional balance: You want your child to build healthy habits and eat well, but you also want them to engage in fun holiday festivities. Rest assured, you can do both! You can provide your kid with fun and healthy options for meals and snacks during the day. That way, your kids will have a solid nutritious base before they venture out to collect and consume candy.
Try some of these festive, healthy meals and snacks during the day.
- Frankenstein’s Monster Green Smoothie.
- Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes.
- Bananas with chocolate chip faces (ghosts).
- Veggie or chicken pot pie with a pumpkin face.
- Pumpkin face stuffed peppers.
- Spiderweb tortilla chip dip (layered bean dip, sour cream piped as a spider web over the plate.)
- Jack-o-lantern Quesadillas.
- Enchiladas with “tombstones” (chips).
Side Dishes / Party Treats
- Tangerines with a small celery stick poking out the top so they look like pumpkins.
- Spiders on a log made with celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, or cream cheese and olives. Add some plastic spider rings if you’re feeling extra creative.
- Guacamole coming out of the mouth of a Jack-o-lantern. (For those who don’t mind a display of “indigestion-humor.”)
- Eyeball deviled eggs with olives as eyes.
Healthy Treats for Kids
You can do well by your community by handing out healthy treats this year for Halloween. Make sure the treats you hand out are sealed for food safety reasons. As a parent, I always have my child throw out homemade treats and candies that do not have a secure wrapping on it.
- Raisin boxes.
- Pre-packaged apple slices or pineapple spears.
- Tangerines. You can draw Jack-o-lantern faces on the peel.
- 100% juice boxes.
- Fruit cups or applesauce pouches.
- Mini bottled water. You can make it fun by creating your own spooky label for it.
Alternatives to Candy
Who said you have to give out food on Halloween? Kids will love these other fun toys as an alternative to candy:
- Interesting rocks, crystals or seashells.
- Halloween-themed jokes.
- Glow sticks.
- Kazoos/noise makers.
- Play doh.
- Bouncy balls.
- Art kits. Kids can make a small beaded bracelet, for example.
Manage All That Candy
Even if you give out those healthy treats and toys, your kids are likely still going to come home with a lot of candy. That is the spirit of Halloween, after all. So, what next?
First, please remember it’s OK to allow kids to eat some candy on Halloween. If there is one day of the year that your kids can splurge, this is it!
Have your kids separate out the candies they don’t enjoy and get rid of it. Doing this can help your kids learn that even with treats, you can be selective about what you put into your body. In the long run, this can help them foster a healthy relationship with candy. Before you throw away the unwanted candy, look around - some dentist offices trade in candy for cash.
On the days following Halloween, put the candy away and out of sight. If your child independently wants a piece of candy, it will be because of physical cues rather than visual cues or boredom that this is desired. This can help with candy cravings for the days following Halloween.
Ellyn Satter, registered dietitian and renowned child feeding expert, recommends offering a glass of milk with candy to improve the chance at good nutrition while kids are enjoying their candy.
Suzanne Watkins is a dietitian at Samaritan Albany General Hospital. If you have questions about nutrition, ask your primary care clinician for a referral for nutrition counseling.