A healthy Halloween may feel like an oxymoron, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate that have nothing to do with nougat. Raising healthy kids is an exercise in consistency, and while everyone is entitled to the occasional treat, it’s always good to provide children with alternatives that are not only healthy and appropriate but appealing in their own right.
Whether you’re going out or staying in, create a plan beforehand and be prepared when the big day comes.
Don’t let the eye-rolling get the best of you. Yes, you’re at that perfect age for trick-or-treating, and you sure don’t want to deprive yourself of those ooey gooey treats and bonbons – but fruit can be a delicious option for kids (not to mention adults).
Dates, for example, taste eerily like caramel. Dragonfruit is an exotic fruit with a spiky green exterior and brilliant white, pink-rimmed flesh underneath. It’s almost as much fun to slice into as it is to eat, and the name is only fitting for the occasion. For a fun Halloween prank, put some peeled grapes in a bowl and have blindfolded kids reach in to touch the “eyeballs.” Turn oranges into “pumpkins” with celery chunks for stems, with sliced bananas becoming a coven of spooky ghosts.
Here are some other possibilities:
- Dried cherries, cranberries, “sour raisins,” and other dried fruits
- Fruit leather
- Natural peanut butter and fruit or vegetable slices
- Fruit snacks
- Seasonal fruits including apples, mangoes, kiwi, and raspberries
- Juice boxes
- Squeezable yogurt or fruit puree
No kid can resist temporary tattoos. They come in a slew of styles, shapes, and sizes, and are readily available and affordable. All you do is moisten the backing paper, press it to the skin, and gently lift to create the “tattoo.” It will stay in place for a little while but don’t worry: It scrubs off fairly easily or fades on its own after a few days of washing. Grab several varieties, from skulls to rainbows, so there’s something for every taste.
Halloween is a naturally creative time of year. Kids love picking out Halloween costumes or making their own. These days you can deck the halls in October as easily as you can in December. Play to that instinct with art or school supplies kids can use long after the last candy wrapper hits the floor. Here are some options:
- Pens and markers
- Stationery pads
Nothing says Halloween like that familiar green phosphorescence. Pass out these goodies before heading out for trick-or-treating, or distribute them out one by one throughout the evening. As an added bonus, glow-in-the-dark accessories can increase visibility and safety while your kids make the neighborhood rounds. Glow sticks are the glow-in-the-dark gold standard, but there are plenty of alternatives, including:
- Fake insects
- Plastic skeletons
- Slime or putty
Limiting candy is not always enough on its own to achieve a healthy Halloween. Before sugary sweets make their inevitable entrance, employ a few strategies to minimize bad behavior before it starts.
For example, if kids have a full meal before heading out for trick-or-treating, they’ll be less likely to binge later. Foods high in protein and fiber make you feel full, so add extra fun to the evening with a “breakfast for dinner” featuring scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and whole wheat pancakes.
Kids don’t want to feel as if you’re policing them, especially not on “their” holiday. If resentment creeps in, resistance is soon to follow.
Make Halloween a teachable moment by talking to kids about healthy choices, rather than simply swooping in behind them to take away their treats. Kids also can help with Halloween candy safety. Once back from trick-or-treating, let them work alongside you (as appropriate) to check for food allergies, expiration dates, and other potential safety issues.
For any number of reasons, trick-or-treating isn’t always in the cards. The fringe benefit to skipping the crowds is more control over surroundings — and what goes in your kids’ tummies. Dress up and host a small gathering for family and friends, visit a low-key event at a trusted location, or turn down the lights and grab the popcorn for a scary movie.
A healthy Halloween shouldn’t feel like work or medicine. Let kids enjoy themselves (within reason) and sneak in nutritious alternatives and safer practices to allow everyone to celebrate responsibly — and maybe even learn something in the process.
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