6 Tips for a Healthier Halloween

How to indulge without overdoing it
Candy corn

By Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

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Want to get a real scare this Halloween? Read the labels for those mega-size bags of candy you bought. Fifteen of the most popular candy bars contain 21 grams of sugar each. That’s just below the low-end recommendation from the American Heart Association for daily sugar intake — for adults. All in one candy bar.

Now think about your kids. Based on a rough estimate, even a modest stash of candy could contain more than 1,200 calories, 175 grams of sugar and 32 grams of fat. That’s the recipe for an epic sugar rush and a whopper of a stomach ache.

This doesn’t mean you have to suck all the fun out of Halloween, of course. With the right preparation, you and your kids can indulge in this sweet holiday without overdoing it.

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1. Buy at the last minute

It’s tough to ignore those great Halloween coupons, sales and specials, but try to avoid them for as long as possible. Having big bags of candy in the house will make both you and your kids more likely to sneak a snack.

2. Consider alternative treats

I know nobody wants to be “that house” — the one that kids pass by because they’re handing out apples — but you can pick some fun alternatives that kids won’t scoff at: stickers, fake teeth, bouncy balls, you name it.

3. Encourage picky eating

When your children get back from trick-or-treating on Halloween and dump a mountain of candy on the table, have them pick the best ones to eat that night. They’ll still get the fun of the holiday tradition but without the temptation to eat it all at once. Save the rest for later — and don’t dig into it yourself!

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4. Make it a party

If you host a fun Halloween party for your children and their friends, you get to control the food options. You can place the focus more on costumes and games and less on a sugar binge.

5. Keep dietary issues in mind

Is your child diabetic? You’ll have to be extra careful on Halloween. The American Diabetes Association has a great list to get you started. Likewise, I tell parents of children who cannot tolerate gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) to get to know gluten-free candy options. Be careful, though; even certain face paints and other costume materials may contain gluten.

6. Have fun!

Just because you’re making smart choices doesn’t mean Halloween has to be a drag. Playing games, picking great costumes, carving pumpkins — there are so many traditions you can keep without gorging on sugar.

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