When people think of Halloween the last thing that comes to mind is health! Currently, in the United States both childhood obesity levels and tooth decay are at historic highs. However, a few tricks might be employed to keep the treats under control without taking the fun away.
First, when handing out treats think of healthier options to candy, such as granola bars, bags of pretzels, peanuts, or trail mix. You can also hand out non-edible treats like stickers, pencils, or bracelets from the dollar store. Also, when out trick or treating make sure that your kids walk with you from house to house rather than having them ride in a car. This will help them get some exercise while they are having fun.
Once the children get home with their loot, have them sort through their candy to get rid of any candy they don’t like. This eliminates the temptation to just eat candy just for the sake of eating candy. Make rules regarding how much candy they can have each day; don’t let it be a free for all on the candy. Here is trick that might come in handy: have them eat or drink something healthy when you give them some candy. If they are involved in any after school sports such as soccer or basketball where they are getting a lot of exercise, this would be a good time to let them have some candy when they get home. The bottom line is you are the parent, so be in control of handing out the candy.
If you have Halloween parties at your house don’t just set candy out in bowls for the kids to grab. Have food stations, like an apple station where they can dip apples into caramel, or fruit station with cut up bananas, strawberries, blueberries and other assorted fruits that can be dunked in melted chocolate or peanut butter. Serve unsweetened fruit juice and milk with chocolate or strawberry syrup as drinks. You don’t have to take all the sugar away, just make it healthier whenever possible.
Another concern is keeping teeth healthy; make sure the kids are brushing their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes. In fact, you might want to get a third brushing time in until all the candy is gone. Have a great Halloween, but make it a healthy one!
Program Manager, McMillen Center for Health Education