Tricks & Treats for Halloween

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October, for many children, is the month of tricks and treats. Children and teens love Halloween – it’s a time for parties, games, costumes and free candy. Even if one doesn’t participate in Trick or Treating; it’s difficult to avoid candy this time of year. Halloween may be a great time for parents to have conversations with their children about healthy eating.

Set the limits

It may be difficult for parents to restrict their children from eating their entire bucket of candy on Halloween night. That is why it’s important to initiate conversations about portion control and limited sweets before Trick or Treat night. It’s alright to allow some indulgence that evening, but for the days after Trick or Treating, limit amounts of candy to three pieces and set limits for the whole family.

Set a limit to two to three pieces of candy per day. Offer the candy after a healthy lunch or dinner, rather than eating it alone as a snack between meals. When limiting sweets – it’s essential for the whole family to participate in limits. Children mimic their parents, and it will be easier and more effective to make better choices as an entire family. Remember, too much restriction, or no candy, can lead to children dishonest behavior with hiding or sneaking food.

Put the bowl away

Try to avoid setting out a bowl filled with candy – if you do, instead of throwing away the wrappers, you could leave them out so you can see and count how much you and your family have eaten – which may provide a better visual to how much overeating of sweet treats is actually done throughout the day; but generally speaking, not having a bowl of candy follows that expression, “out of sight – out of mind.”

Healthy Halloween treats

Another suggestion would be for parents to provide a favorite meal and dessert before Trick or Treating, so children won’t eat as much after Trick or Treating – and having the candy be less of the main focus.

Banana Ghost

½ banana and three chocolate chips

  • If you have an opportunity to choose a dark chocolate chip, they may be a better choice than milk chocolate or white chocolate chips. The higher the percent cocoas, the more flavonoids and protective antioxidants it will contain.
  • Cocoa can help promote low blood pressure and help protect against heart disease.
  • Bananas are naturally fat and cholesterol free and are high in potassium, which is important for normal muscle function. In addition, fiber with helps sustain satiety or feel fuller, longer and also helps promote heart health.

Pumpkin Butter Pumpkin Crackers

Whole grain cracker, pumpkin butter and mini chocolate chips

  • Pumpkin contains beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
  • Beta carotene also reduces the risk of heart disease and helps support a healthy immune system.
  • Pumpkin adds a tasty flavor for the fall, and offering a variety of flavors is important in a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Talk about red light and green light foods

Halloween and Trick or Treating is an opportunity to have a conversation with children about Portion Control with easy concepts like “Red Light, Green Light” foods, where the candy would be a red light food, and is to be eaten sparingly. Or if you have very active and athletic children, the concept of “Slow Foods vs. ‘Fast Foods’” may be effective, where candy is the Slow Food, and will slow you down during physical activities and sports.

When looking at candy labels, one might think that items with peanuts, nuts, dried fruit, or coconut may be more nutritious or even good for you; but don’t fool yourself candy is candy and should be limited.

When looking at the Nutrition Facts Panel:

Try to choose candy bars that list milk chocolate as the first ingredient, rather than sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose or hydrogenated oils. Ingredients are listed in descending order by amounts in the products. Candies that are not chocolate, may be lower in fat content, but it’s still candy. Some fruit chews or other fruit flavored candies may not only be lower in fat, but sometimes advertise “real fruit” and have higher content in Vitamin C.

Share your candy stockpile

If you have a lot of candy leftover, there are programs available that you might be able to take advantage of. Some dentists participate in Candy Buy Back programs, where donated candy goes to troops overseas, or you can directly send over leftover candy to troops overseas via Operation Gratitude, or you can donate to local food pantries or nursing homes.

There are many ways to enjoy the spooky fun of Halloween while avoiding too many sweets.

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