Halloween Trick-or-Treating Tips
Halloween is a fun day for children. They get to wear costumes, go through haunted houses, and go trick-or-treating for candy. By the end of the night, children either have a bucket or pillowcase full of candy that they are itching to tear into or have already begun eating some on the way home.
Most parents realize that overloading on candy is not the best option for their children, but often feel trapped by the notion that Halloween revolves around delicious, sweet confections. Of course, adults are not immune to Halloween snacking either. These tips will help you prepare you and your child for a ghoulishly fun Halloween evening and week after, without the ghastly sugar highs and upset stomachs!
For your child
Do not make trick-or-treating the focus of the day
First, make costume design a part of the holiday. Rather than buying a costume in a bag, spend the day or part of it brainstorming about costume ideas with your child and then making the costume. Or if you do not have much time, have your child design an accessory for a prebought costume—Spiderman needs his webs!
After getting into the costume, initially choose an alternate event to trick-or-treating, such as going to a haunted house, pumpkin picking/carving, and hayrides. Contact a local pumpkin patch or haunted house to see when events are scheduled. Children will have a ton of fun, especially while dressed in their favorite costume! Then if your kids still have some energy left, a little trick-or-treating provides a nice way to conclude your day.
Once your kids or teens return home from trick-or-treating, allow them to choose a set amount of candy, three to five fun/mini-sized pieces, for example. Let them pick which ones they want. Also, as silly as this sounds, unless your children offer you some candy, do not eat their candy. Allow them to select any two remaining pieces of candy every day until the stash is gone. Ask them which pieces they chose and why, so you learn which ones they prefer or, better yet, sit with them as they choose and watch their decision-making process. It may amaze you to learn about how much or little a child thinks about candy.
For other children and yourself
Choose better candy options or give a toy instead
If you choose to offer snacks to trick-or-treaters, choose options that provide at least a little nutritional value. Compared to most other candies, dark chocolates, such as Hershey’s® Dark Chocolate Kisses® or Special Dark Miniatures, have a bit less sugar, plus some fiber, protein, and antioxidants.
Mini packages of popcorn, baked chips, pretzels, or Fig Newtons® provide some nutrients from the corn, potato, grains, or figs. If you give candy, give the mini-sized pieces rather than the fun-sized ones, which usually are at least twice the size and calories. This allows children to choose multiple candies for the same number of calories.
Try to avoid giving any snacks that are pure sugar. Look at the nutrient label and if the only calories come from carbohydrates and sugar (no fat or protein), then it is a safe bet that it is all sugar. Another alternative to all of these snacks are mini packs of gum, which tend to have fewer calories and are enjoyable for almost any kid! For even less sugar and fewer calories, consider giving out sugar-free gum.
If you do not want to give out candy or gum, researchers have found that children 3 to 14 years of age were just as likely to choose a small toy instead of candy. Think about passing out bouncy balls or temporary Halloween tattoos instead of candy. Visit your local party favor or discount store for even more ideas.
Out of sight, out of mind
Get rid of leftover candy and chips that you did not hand out as soon as possible. Take the extras into work, donate them to a shelter, or throw them out. This way you and your children do not have devilishly unhealthy snack options staring you in the face. The sooner you return to normal habits, the sooner you can prepare for the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, which of course also revolves around food.
References and recommended readings
Schwartz MB, Chen E, Brownell KD. Trick, treat, or toy: children are just as likely to choose toys as candy on Halloween. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2003;35(4):207-209.
Vinson JA, Proch J, Bose P, et al. Chocolate is a powerful ex vivo and in vivo antioxidant, an antiatherosclerotic agent in an animal model, and a significant contributor to antioxidants in the European and American diets. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(21):8071-8076. http://europeanchocolatier.com/pdfs/Chocolate_is_Powerful_Antioxidant.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2013
Contributed by Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, CDN
Updated by Nutrition411.com staff
Review Date 5/13