Halloween candy temptations (got candy corn?) and cute little costumes (one tiny princess outfit and two puppy suits, please) are haunting the stores.
And with those treats, you’re probably already feeling tricked by the inevitable war over how much candy you and your family will consume this year.
Step away from the super-sized bag of assorted goodies, put down the miniature sword, and treat yourself to our 13 tricks and tips to help you enjoy a healthier, happier Halloween.
Ever watched a little kid tripping toward you with her Wonder Woman mask slipping down to the point that it’s more like a blindfold? Don’t let Halloween mask mania endanger your child.
Smart swap: Get wash-off crayons and use face painting rather than a mask.
The Google era has given dieters an easy way to find out exactly how much sugar and how many calories are in their favorite Halloween treats. But before you grab two or three to munch on Halloween eve, consider this: A single Milky Way bar has 240 calories, 37 grams of carbs, 31 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of saturated fat. And it’s way too easy to eat several in just minutes.
Smart swap: Lick your way to the center of a Tootsie Pop, which has 60 calories and 0 grams of fat.
Plan to fit in some additional physical activity this season so that you can enjoy those Halloween treats without guilt. Instead of sitting on the couch watching another monster-movie marathon, create a Halloween-themed playlist and start moving to the music of the spooky season.
Smart swap: Burn 200 calories by walking quickly for 40 minutes (calculated for a 150-pound walker).
Make sure your kids can be seen when they’re in costume on Halloween night, advises Safe Kids. A dark costume can make it more challenging for drivers to see your kids.
Smart swap: Choose light-colored costumes or use bright reflective tape and give your kids glow sticks or flashlights.
Dr. Dina DiMaggio, a pediatrician at NYU Langone and Pediatric Associates of NYC and author of the Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, told Healthline that parents should get their kids ready for Halloween prior to the big event.
“For smaller children, I recommend trying out their costume before the big day to make sure they are comfortable — no itchy materials that can irritate their skin, too long outfits that they can trip on, or masks or hats that block them from seeing where they are walking,” recommended DiMaggio. “I also would make sure not to have your child walk around with accessories like swords that may be too sharp or that they can trip on.”
Smart swap: Consider delighting your child with temporary tattoos rather than tricky-to-manage accessories.
How much candy is too much? DiMaggio believes in moderation. For example, rather than full-size versions of candy bars, the pediatrician suggests allowing your child to enjoy mini-size candy bars to reduce sugar intake.
Smart swap: “Healthier options would be apple packets, raisins boxes, tangerines decorated on to look like cute pumpkins, pretzel or dry fruit packs, or bars with few ingredients like Lärabars or bars that contain just fruit. Kids can also give out treats that are not candy, such as pencils, stickers, little notepads, or tattoos,” said DiMaggio.
DiMaggio advises parents to plan an early dinner on Halloween and take the children trick-or-treating immediately after that evening meal. That way, your kids won’t be so hungry that they want to gobble up all their candy at once. And make your how-to-manage-candy-intake strategic battle plan before the holiday.
“Parents should set guidelines that they feel comfortable with and then stick with those guidelines,” DiMaggio said. “I have parents tell their children that candy is ‘sometimes’ food and that it is important to eat healthier food that is better for your body to grow.”
- Limit candy to a certain number that your child can choose from the haul and then divide over a few days to extend the joys of Halloween.
- Have your children choose a small amount of candy and donate the rest. Then decide together where to donate, whether it’s a dentist’s office that then sends it to troops, or a homeless shelter. Teaching kids kindness and that it feels good to share with others is an added bonus on Halloween.
If you find you’re pressed for time on the day of Halloween, or simply want to save your energy for the evening, you may be considering ditching your usual fitness routine to enjoy the spooky fun. However, you don’t have to give up one for the other.
Smart swap: Harvard researchers found that exercising in short intervals throughout the day rather than one long session can be just as beneficial, reported ABC News. So take the stairs rather than the elevator at work, park a block away from the store when you go to buy Halloween candy, and take a quick walk at lunch before trick-or-treat eve arrives.
It’s always tempting to skip breakfast, skimp on lunch, and eat a light dinner before an occasion like a Halloween party. But starving all day and binging on sugar on Halloween night will leave you haunted with a sugar overload the next day (not to mention causing a ghostly sleepless night!).
Registered dietitian Elana Natker told Healthline that “skipping breakfast, eating a light lunch, etc. will make you ‘hangry‘ for one thing, and will also have you thinking about food all day long as the hunger pangs serve as a constant reminder.”
Smart swap: “Make peace with food, and give yourself a little grace. My recommendation for Halloween day is to eat sensibly all day long, meaning a satisfying, preferably higher-protein, higher-fiber breakfast (such as eggs with whole-grain toast, or oatmeal made with milk and topped with berries and nuts), followed by a veggie- and protein-packed lunch. Both will set you up for success come trick-or-treat time.”
All hail the Halloween party! Kids of all ages love the chance to dress up in their eeriest attire to dance to the “Monster Mash.” And then there are those frosted Halloween cupcakes, candies, and other goodies. Ready for a monster intake of sugar (and a monster sugar high that makes a good night’s sleep almost impossible)? If you’re planning a party, don’t make sweet treats the only option on the menu.
Smart swap: “Have a healthy dinner,” recommends Natker. You could even have a taco bar at the party, with lean turkey or beef and customized toppings such as salsa, lettuce, and olives — a tricky way to “get more veggies in without complaint.”
Any parent asked to supply treats for a child’s school party knows the dilemma: Go all out with sugary delights that give dentists nightmares (but make the kids happy), or offer cut-up fresh fruit that the kids will probably ignore?
Smart swap: “Remember that we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths and taste buds. There are so many ways to have fun with your food,” Natker told Healthline. “I like apples cut to look like mouths with teeth made from mini-marshmallows or Rice Krispies. Or cheese sticks with almond slivers in a pool of ‘blood’ (tomato sauce) that look like severed fingers.”
Turning pumpkins into glowing, grinning jack-o’-lanterns is a fun, time-honored Halloween tradition. However, they can also become scary fire and health hazards.
- Have kids paint or color jack-o-lantern faces on pumpkins instead of carving, or make it a team project. Let kids draw on the face that an adult can carve after.
- Use glow sticks or battery-powered lights instead of candles inside your jack-o’-lantern.
When the kids bring their candy home (or when you’re giving it out from the big bowl that you’ve got ready for those little ghosts and goblins), it’s all too easy to mindlessly start eating.
Smart swap: Natker told Healthline that she’s developed her own game plan for Halloween candy consumption.
“What I love about Halloween candy is that they’re already in smaller portions, so I take one each of my favorites, then sit down and really enjoy it,” she said. “That’s the key — don’t just gorge… but pull your favorite two or three or four from the pile, sit down, pay attention to what you’re doing as you carefully unwrap it, close your eyes as you bite into it, and really taste it. Enjoy it completely. After the novelty of eating your favorite candy wears off, so has the fun. So, enjoy and savor the moment.”
Now that’s trick-or-treat advice we can savor!