I have such a love/hate (mostly love) relationship with Halloween, as I’m sure most health-conscious moms do. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up, hosting parties, coming up with festive treats and games… but I absolutely hate the feeling I have after overindulging on candy. I’ll admit to you now that I have a snacking problem. If the candy’s in front of me and I’m bored, I’ll start munching on it, even if it’s not my favorite type of candy. I’ve had to learn to make my home a “food safe haven.” Home is the one place I know I can be without worrying whether I’ll be tempted with something that I really don’t want or need. It’s also where I know my kids get impeccable nutrition, and having that safe haven gives me peace of mind that my kids can have the snacks and the birthday treats at school without getting sick all the time. I truly feel that they’re fortified against the small amount of unhealthy food they surely consume outside our home.
So what does a healthy family do for Halloween? Skip the trick-or-treating? Wrap the kids up like mummies and hide them in their closet until it’s all over? That’s not healthy either, for reasons outside the scope of this nutrition blog 😉
Here are some healthy Halloween ideas that will help you survive the holiday without getting sick, feeling guilty, or provoking any temper tantrums about the candy being put away.
Side note: Speaking of getting sick, I think it’s no coincidence that the cold an flu “season” gets kicked off right around Halloween-time. The fact that sugar greatly lowers our immune system, coupled with the season changing is a perfect recipe for getting sick, which starts a domino effect that lasts until the sun comes out again, unless you instill healthy habits that can help you avoid flu season altogether.
Healthy Halloween Traditions
Our society has slowly created this weird, twisted culture around food. We’re so preoccupied with food that holidays are centered around the menu instead of the meaning of the holiday, the relationships with the people you’re celebrating with, and the traditions and memories that are created. It’s really quite superficial if you think about it. This Halloween, try to shift the focus from the candy to the memories and the traditions. Make your holiday REAL. Focus on the costumes, having fun with friends, bobbing for apples, doing crafts, playing games, and creating memories. Make the candy a side-plot. This is done very simply by creating more meaningful activities. Trust me, your kids are craving togetherness and activity more than they are Milky Ways and Snicker bars. But I’m not deluded. I know they still really want those Milky Ways and Snicker bars! So here’s one way to keep the candy to a minimum, while keeping a smile on their little faces.
It’s the Great Pumpkin!
A couple of weeks before Halloween, sit down as a family to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Then have a family discussion about the Great Pumpkin and how he’ll be visiting your house on Halloween night. After trick-or-treating, they’ll be able to choose 3-5 pieces of candy to enjoy. Then they’ll leave their candy bags on the kitchen table before they go to bed. While they’re sleeping, the great pumpkin will come and eat all their candy, and in exchange, leave a really cool present.
Younger kids will most likely just go for this idea immediately, because it’s likely the only Halloween tradition they recall. Older kids who are used to eating all their Halloween candy may need a different discussion. Talk to them about what a tradition is and why you’d like to start a new one for your family. Get their input on how many pieces of candy they feel they should eat before they turn the rest over to the Great Pumpkin. Also ask them for ideas on what gift they might like the Great Pumpkin to leave them.
You may opt for a family gift like a DVD or a board game, or a separate gift for each child. Allow the Great Pumpkin to throw the candy away while silently thanking your neighbors for the money they spent to contribute to a fun trick-or-treating experience. (It would all go to waste in the end, anyway.)
A couple of notes:
- Whatever number of candies you settle on, have your kids eat their share that night rather than stretching it out to 1 or 2 pieces a day for a week. Our bodies can bounce back much more quickly from one day of eating unhealthfully, than from a week of mediocre eating. Eating just a little bit every day can quickly turn into a habit. It’s best to just let them have their allotted amount in one night, and then serve green smoothies and an extra serving of probiotics for breakfast the next morning.
- One TotallyHealthyRecipes reader told me she has a similar tradition to this, but it’s the Candy Witch that comes to take the candy, instead of the Great Pumpkin.