Halloween is an exciting time of year, full of costumes, parties, and of course, candy. The ill effects of this junk food-filled holiday can last days-or even weeks-after our mini ghouls and goblins have returned from their trick-or-treating extravaganza.
As co-author of Unjunk Your Junk Food, I am very familiar with the unhealthy ingredients found in most conventional candy. In an effort to make this year’s junk-filled excursions a little healthier, here are some useful tips and hope it makes this Halloween a little less, well, you guessed it, SCARY.
Many of these tips work well for younger children. However, you can apply several of them to older kids as well:
Set limits: Establish a set number of treats you are comfortable with them munching on while they are out trick-or-treating (my limit is two). This can be any amount they want – no restrictions. Once they reach that limit, the rest has to be brought home to be ‘parent approved’.
Get them involved: In our house we sit together as a family and separate the candy into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ piles. You can decide upfront which ingredients you will allow them to indulge in and which are off limits. Ask them to separate the candy according to the ingredients on the labels. This is a good opportunity to explain why the ingredients you are banning are unhealthy for them (for a cheat sheet, click here).
Swap it up: This was something I did for many years until my kids realized what I was doing. I pre-bought ‘healthier’ candy options made without artificial dyes, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, or trans fats, and then swapped them for the junk food in their goody bags after they got home (I somehow managed to do it while they were taking off their coats). To be honest, they didn’t know the difference and I felt better about what they were eating.
Create a barter system: Negotiate a deal that will oblige your kids to ‘trade in’ some of their candies for non-candy items such as a small toy, an extra ten minutes on the computer or 30 more minutes of TV.
Donate to charity: Let them know that a portion of the candy they collect will be donated to charity (or to your colleagues at the office).
Sneak treats: Secretly pull out some of the candy from their stash while your kids are sleeping. Unless they count it before they go to bed (which is why this might work better for the younger ones), they won’t realize the disappearing act.
Regardless of how you decide to lessen the impact of this candy-driven holiday, it is a step in the right direction. Happy trick-or-treating!
Do you have some tips to share with us? I’d love to hear them.