The average amount of candy a child will bring home after a night of trick-or-treating contains the sugar equivalent of 54 cans of soda.
With that in mind, is it even possible to make Halloween healthy?
“There are ways to make Halloween healthier without taking the fun out of it,” says Kari Kooi, a registered dietitian at Houston Methodist.
Kooi shares realistic tips to make Halloween as healthy as it can be.
Choose the right treats
A healthy Halloween starts with the treats you buy for trick-or-treaters. And, no, we don’t mean something that’s healthy but kids won’t touch — like raisins. Kooi says the most realistic way to make Halloween healthier is to focus on portion control.
“There’s no such thing as healthy candy, but choosing fun-size bars and packs can help control portions,” says Kooi. “Or, select candies that take longer to enjoy, like lollipops. For some nutrient benefits, go for 100% fruit chews or dark chocolate candies.”
If you’re looking for fun alternatives to candy that kids will still enjoy, Kooi recommends the following:
- Glow stick bracelets or necklaces
- Whacky toy packs
- 100-calorie snack packs
- Small bags of lightly sweet kettle corn
Keep in mind: Even with “healthy snack alternatives,” portion control is still important.
“What’s interesting is that while pretzels may seem like a healthier alternative to candy, they’re also cavity-forming because of how the starch sticks to the teeth,” Kooi explains. “Always opt for 100-calorie packs when it comes to passing out snacks.”
Consider Halloween logistics
So, it’s the big day and you can’t wait to get home to see your kid looking adorable in her ballerina costume. Except…first, you have to stop at the store for your third bag of Halloween candy — since your family ate the candy you bought last week.
Kooi recommends waiting to purchase candy until a couple of days before Halloween. And by a couple, she really means it.
“Wait to purchase your candy a day or two before Halloween so there’s less temptation to sneak into it before the actual day,” says Kooi.
Kooi also suggests only buying the minimum amount of candy you need so that you’re not stuck with leftover candy for weeks after Halloween.
And then there’s the logistics on the day of Halloween, such as what to feed your kid before trick-or-treating.
“Make sure to feed your kids real food before they go out trick-or-treating. I recommend a light meal or, at the very least, a protein-rich snack like a yogurt,” says Kooi. “If you send your kids out hungry, they may be more likely to start snacking on their candy while they’re trick-or-treating.”
Be there when your kid pours out their candy
No two kids will come home with the same candies in their sack, but every kid will come home with a sack that’s close to overflowing.
“When your kids pour out their candy at the end of the evening, it’s important to be there and limit them to around 5 pieces of candy that night,” explains Kooi.
Five pieces may not sound like much, but keep in mind that just 5 fun-sized candy bars contain the equivalent of 11 teaspoons of sugar.
“The best way to make Halloween healthier is to help your kid consciously indulge,” explains Kooi.
Avoid “candy grazing”
Now comes the dilemma of dealing with all that candy. Rather than letting Halloween continue until the candy runs out, Kooi recommends creating a system that keeps the candy-binging from dragging out for weeks.
“After your kids pour out their candy and eat their 5 pieces, it’s a good idea to have them count out about 20 pieces of their favorite candy to save for the following few days,” recommends Kooi. “Then, let them enjoy a piece of candy or two with lunch and with dinner.”
Kooi also warns not to let kids store candy in their rooms. She recommends storing candy in the kitchen, where there’s more supervision.
“Sugar isn’t inherently bad,” she says. “It’s just bad if we overdo it. The goal should be to consciously indulge in sweets by creating a structure for when you enjoy them.”