A Healthier Halloween! A Smart Approach to Halloween Candy and Treats

by Jennifer A. Gardner, M.D. on October 28, 2013

Let's Get This Party Started . . .


With healthier halloween ideas!

At HKC we love to throw a great party, and that’s just what we did. (We have a video to prove it!)  We came up with a menu of fun, festive food and candy that contains more than just sugar, fat and artificial dyes! YES, halloween means pillowcases filled with candy. But it is also filled with fun costumes, trick-or-treating (great exercise), and the opportunity to teach kids about the concept of moderation.

Let’s face it, the similarities between Halloween and Healthy stops at the letter H!  And we at Healthy Kids Co. would never propose taking all the fun out of a holiday party dedicated to candy and the ensuing rush that follows. But you can make this holiday healthier—without going batty—by taking a few simple steps. The key here is to aim for healthier options, not strictly healthy.

First, when guests arrive, be sure to offer more than candy. 

This means kids will have the chance to fill up on something other than candy.
Have a nice mix of candy and non-candy treats.

Our Halloween party had plenty of candy, but we balanced it with healthier options and non candy treats.

Remember, anything homemade is better than commercial baked goods.

Never feel bad serving cupcakes and cookies made from scratch. Cupcakes can be easily decorated with festive paper decorations that are available this time of year.

Keep the kids active so they do more than eat candy!
By encouraging kids to be active with plenty of hauntingly spooky and silly games, kids can offset some of these excess calories. You can find many commercial party games, but here are some fun ideas you can easily do.

  • The Great Halloween Pumpkin Hunt: Send kids on a treasure hunt for a golden painted pumpkin; provide written clues, if you like.
  • Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin: Make your own version of pin the tail on the donkey.
  • Mummy Wrap: Kids team up and take turns covering each other “mummy style” in a roll of white crepe paper. First team done wins, but there's a catch: the team must not rip the roll!
  • Balloon Stomp: Tie orange and black balloons to colorful strips of Halloween ribbon approximately 3 feet long. Now tie this to the child’s left ankle. Children “stomp” on each other’s balloons. Winner is the child with the last balloon intact.

Party Bag

Give parents a hand and send guests home with Halloween themed bling, not candy.

Glow sticks, glow necklaces and bracelets, spider rings, temporary tattoos, bubbles, Halloween stamps, stickers, pencils, and erasers are a few ideas. You might even consider tucking a kid’s toothbrush into a festive party bag!

A Healthy Approach To All The Candy

First, barring allergies, nothing is off limits while trick-or-treating. That's just part of childhood, don't take it away from your kids! (You should, however, have them eat a well balanced meal or a healthy snack before heading out and talk about moderation.)

To Reduce Halloween Haul:  If you trick or treat with your kids, encourage them to take non candy treats whenever offered. You might also consider having your child collect for a charity like Unicef, which has had a Trick-or-Treat for Unicef Campaign since the 1950's! Both conveniently limit the booty your kids can collect.

Parental Tricks-for-Treats:  Once home, I am liberal for the first few days after Halloween, but then I get rid of the worst offenders (those with artificial dyes, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup).

Some Ideas

  • Have the "Switch Witch" visit your child (candy left out overnight is replaced by the switch witch for money, a fun activity "coupon" or a favorite toy).
  • Trade in some of their haul for a toy (kids learn to barter and negotiate!).
  • Trade in some candy for a donation in your child's name at a local animal shelter or favorite charity.
  • Take excess candy to nursing homes or homeless shelters.
  • Send excess candy to oversea military personnel ("Operation Gratitude").
  • Some local dentists participate in halloween booty "buy backs."
  • Freeze chocolate bars for a later date.

​When choosing Halloween treats to give out or serve at parties, there are many factors to consider but taste, cost, and ingredients are the three most important.

Trick-or-treating with your family is fun, and you can remind yourself that it only occurs once a year. If everyone in the neighborhood does not give out healthier treats, an inevitability, don't sweat it.

But in your own house, try to hand out delicious treats with some nutritional value. It really isn’t as hard as you might think! At Halloween time, healthier to me means, in addition to sugar and/or fat, the treat also contains one or more of the following: a protein (nuts, seeds), fruit, whole grain, or chocolate.
And of course, I give out non-candy snack packs (like popcorn or pretzels) and always offer a non-edible option. This year it's small cans of play doh. In warmer climates, small bottles of water or 100% fruit juice boxes are an unexpected treat.

Popcorn is a whole grain with proven health benefits. So any caramel covered or "kettle" corn is a great Halloween treat. The brand Popcorn, Indiana makes great kettle corn snack pack that could easily be given out. Smartfood makes a cinnamon and brown sugar popcorn that’s also very good.

To avoid sugar altogether (they’ll be getting plenty of this anyway), you could give out packets of popcorn (Smartfood Popcorn and Fit Popcorn by Popcorn, Indiana are two brands we like) instead.

Whole grains like popcorn are high in fiber, have a great antioxidant profile, including some valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamins B and E, magnesium, iron, and fiber.

CHOCOLATE COVERED NUTS, DRIED FRUIT (like raisins), FRESH FRUIT (like strawberries), or PRETZELS
When purchasing, look for chocolate (or yogurt) coatings that do not contain an unhealthy fats (trans, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil) or high fructose corn syrup. Or skip the coating entirely and just give out packets of nuts, seeds, dried fruit or pretzels!  (Many communities advise parents to throw away fresh fruit, so it is best to give this out to children you know.)

Dark chocolate has many antioxidants, flavonoids, and flavanols. It is also high in potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. Milk chocolate has some of these benefits, but in general, the darker the better. Hershey's Chocolate Kisses now come in dark chocolate so a 50/50 mix of dark/milk chocolate is a great idea!

Nuts are nutrient dense and a great source of healthy protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins (B, E) and minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium).  They contain heart healthy unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated) and omega-3 FA's. When purchasing nuts or seeds, look for dry roasted over oil roasted.

Raisins are naturally sweet, nutrient dense and a great source of antioxidants, vitamins (B) and minerals (calcium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc). Raisins are known for their high levels of resveratrol, a polyphenol anti-oxidant that has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cholesterol lowering properties. Raisins also contain fiber.

Pretzels While pretzels can be made from whole grains, most aren’t. Choose pretzels made from simple ingredients like flour, water, yeast and salt (like Snyder’s of Hanover sour dough hard pretzels). Avoid pretzels that contain oil or sweeteners (like sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, or dextrose).

Look for ones made with sugar and butter or healthy oils. Avoid brands made with unhealthy fats (trans, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil) or high fructose corn syrup.

Seeds are highly concentrated with nutrients, containing vitamins, minerals, fiber and many antioxidants. Sesame Crunch Candy, which contains sesame seeds, is a great option.

So by now you understand the best candy contains real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup), no artificial dyes or sweeteners, and no unhealthy fats (trans fats, hydrated or partially hydrated fats).

And the very best candies contain one or more of the following: a healthy protein (nuts, seeds), fruit, whole grains, or chocolate. Believe it or not, many candy companies fit the bill. For a large selection of natural candies try the Natural Candy Store.

View our "Healthier Halloween" Video for more ideas!
➤ See The Bee Healthy Blog for our PUMPKIN CHILI recipe
➤ Visit our Pinterest Holiday Board featuring more Halloween photos
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