"Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!" How many times have we heard kids chant this on Halloween?
If you really stop to listen to the words, you might realize just how ironic the last part is... "Give me something good to eat"?
Every year, around early September, supermarkets across the nation stock aisles upon aisles of Halloween-themed chocolate bars and candy filled with processed sugar. It's impossible to miss them.
A few weeks ago, I saw the displays of Halloween candy in the grocery store and picked up a bag to see just how much sugar it had in it... FORTY SEVEN GRAMS of sugar in ONE candy bar!
That's TWELVE teaspoons of sugar... in one candy bar! (To get an idea of how awful that really is, measure out twelve teaspoons of anything into a clear cup. Just seeing how much sugar is in one piece of Halloween candy will shock you!)
It pains me to think about the fact that when kids go trick-or-treating, they're not given just one of these candy bars to eat. Oh no, they bring home 20-30 candy bars. If we do the math, that's anywhere between 240 and 360 teaspoons of sugar. That's THREE POUNDS of sugar, or about three bags of sugar in one week. I'm not saying they will eat every candy bar in one evening, but it's pretty typical for all of that Halloween candy to be gone in a week or so.
We all know we shouldn't be feeding our kids that much sugar, but at Halloween, it can be difficult to avoid the temptation. Many people tell me, "Isabel, I can't keep my kids from trick-or-treating with their friends and classmates. That's not fair."
And they're absolutely right. You don't need to keep your kids from trick-or-treating and enjoying the holiday spirit, but you can definitely find ways for them to have a delicious and nutritious Halloween.
Here are a few tips to make sure your family has a healthy and happy Halloween this year (and every year!):
- Fill Up with Good Food - My favorite Halloween "trick" is to feed my kids a healthy and nutritious dinner before they go trick-or-treating. I'll also cut up some fresh fruit for dessert so they can satisfy that sweet tooth before we head out. Filling them up on good food will make them less inclined to crave sweets and fill up on extra sugar.
- Ration the Sweets - It's inevitable that kids will bring home a ton of Halloween candy if they go trick-or-treating... but that doesn't mean they need to eat all of it on Halloween night. Allow them to have only one piece of candy at a time - this will keep them from guzzling down all their candy on the first day.
- Donate the Candy - Candy donations are always welcome at most shelters. There are many less fortunate people who would love to enjoy a piece of candy during the holiday season.
- Limit Trick-or-Treating Time - It isn't necessary to visit every single house on Halloween. Pick a handful of houses to visit instead - the kids will still come home with plenty of candy. Use the extra time to have your kids participate in other holiday activities.
- Try Healthier Alternatives - Finding healthier snack alternatives during Halloween doesn't have to be tricky. Once you get those creative juices flowing, there are so many healthy foods that are fun for the kids, and delicious, too! Try these recipes and you'll have happy kids on your hands: Halloween Fruit Gummies, Watermelon Halloween Brains, and Ghosts and Pumpkins.
- Hand Out Healthy Treats - When kids come trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, I hand out money (we don't get too many trick-or-treaters, so the few who do make it to our house are surprised with $2 bills!). Some great food options would be packages of berries or dried fruit. They are a healthy and delicious alternative, sweetened with natural sugar. And once kids try them, they love them!
Every one of these tips can be applied to young kids, teenagers, and even adults. Enjoying natural sources of sugar, filling up on healthy and nutritious food, and limiting sugar intake are all key to having a happy and healthy Halloween!