Halloween: This Nutritionist Loves It!
I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to put my creative energy into coming up with the best costume. I enjoyed the drama of being in character for the day and night. As a Mom, I still love Halloween and making a unique costume for my 5 year-old son – even if it’s a bit of a challenge like his request last year to be a Sea King Helicopter! The year he was a zebra, his buddy was a bear and my husband and I dressed as safari guides/zoo keepers. It’s always a complete family and neighbourhood affair.
As a nutritionist, you’d think I’d despise Halloween and all of its sticky, sugary treats. Well, let me share my tips for managing the day of the year that parents notoriously fear will turn their little ghosts, goblins and superheroes into real monsters. (On that note, it is often the excitement of the day itself, not just the candy, that leaves the little ones so revved up.)
In taking a healthy approach, encourage your family to take the mindset that the day is not exclusively about the candy. Have fun coming up with a costume and sourcing the needed materials from thrift stores, tickle trunks or friends. Take advantage of seasonal activities that may be available in your community. Hay rides, a corn maize, a visit to a pumpkin patch or haunted house are all great ways to celebrate that have nothing to do with sugar. Have a neighbourhood potluck and bring seasonal foods. We like to make an orange-coloured platter of cantaloupe cubes, dried apricots, carrot sticks, cheese cubes, orange wedges and more garnished with plastic black spiders from the dollar store.
When it comes to the candy, choose something to hand out to the trick-or-treaters that you feel okay about. I have no problem handing out one small chocolate bar each. I am concerned with the trend of giving each kid a massive handful of 5 or 10 treats as I have seen quite commonly. If you like, choose real fruit chewy candies, sugarless gum, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or granola bars as healthier choices to pure sugar candies. Then there’s always the non-food approach of giving out stickers, pencils or even toothbrushes!
As to what to do with the sack of candy once back home, take time to sort through it with your child and remove anything that they don’t even like. Some families take the approach of allowing one or two treats a day for weeks. Others let their children tuck into as much candy as they like hoping they will tire of it. (In either case, don’t allow candy in place of meals or snacks. It is always better as a small dessert to a balanced meal.) A friend of mine left the candy in an accessible drawer for her child who ate way too much, got sick to his stomach and ever since has no desire to eat too much candy. The best idea I have ever come across and one that goes over stunningly in our home is “The good witch”. On Halloween night, our son leaves out about 80% of his candy for the good witch. While he’s sleeping, the witch comes and magically takes the candy. Like the tooth fairy, she leaves money that he can use to buy a new toy. Most of the candy is thrown out, but I must admit that I actually save some of the “good” chocolate bars. I crumble them into pieces, freeze and use later in the fall for baking wholesome oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or pumpkin chocolate muffins with my son.
And on the note of baking, celebrate Halloween by making reasonably healthy Halloween cupcakes or a fun cake with your kids. Make pumpkin muffins or a witch or ghost-shaped carrot cake. Make a platter of 4 or 5 different kinds of apples for the kids to try. Even if you serve it with a caramel dip, it’s healthier than candy alone. So, the season and Halloween day itself doesn’t have to be completely scary on the nutritional front.
Keep me posted on healthy ways you’ve found to celebrate the season! I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. Now, I must get back to those costume plans. My son wants to be a killer whale this year and “scare everyone”. Guess that means my husband and I will be other sea creatures or perhaps aquarium workers!