Kids love Halloween – and maybe you do too! In fact, the National Retail Foundation predicts that roughly 175 million Americans celebrated in 2018. If you’ve decided to throw a party this year – and don't want guests to consume copious amounts of sugar that will lead to major crashes later on – you'll want to make some healthier choices. While one evening isn't going to make or break most people’s long-term health goals, it can’t hurt to incorporate wholesome treats and fun games into your party this year.
Here are some health tips that will help your family move more and cut calories, without sacrificing all of the spooky fun.
Replace sugar-laden treats with nutritious alternatives
Creating a healthier Halloween party includes limiting the amount of sugary beverages and sweets served to guests – especially children. These foods are often just empty calories with no nutritional value. They also contain added sugar and syrups, which are put into foods during processing or preparation.
“We want to teach kids that it’s okay to have some treats, but it should be in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet,” says Anne Brock, RDN, LD, CDE, of West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho.
Consuming a lot of added sugar on a regular basis can lead to unintentional weight gain, obesity, inflammation, diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also negatively affect your dental health, causing cavities and tooth decay, says Brock.
For most healthy children, one day of sugar may not do a whole lot of damage. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives for the trick-or-treaters that stop by, Brock suggests trying these options:
- prepackaged and sealed fruit like oranges, grapes or apple slices
- snack size bags of popcorn
- non-edible items like pencils, erasers, spider rings and glow sticks
If you do buy candy, stick to bite-size pieces rather than full-sized bars and try giving each trick-or-treater just one piece.
Serve your homemade treats first
Instead of putting out a large candy bowl for your party goers, try setting out your healthier homemade treats first. That way, both kids and parents can fill up on the nutritious foods before reaching for sweets.
Brock suggests swapping your typical sugary treats for healthier options on Halloween. A healthy party spread can include carrots, celery, grapes, guacamole, hummus (with a little orange food coloring) and apple chips.
You can also use this opportunity to add seasonal treats to your menu. Roasted pumpkin seeds, packed with magnesium and zinc, can be eaten alone or mixed into popcorn balls. Pumpkin chocolate muffins or pumpkin pie dip with low-fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt are a few festive options. Try baking apples or pears topped with cinnamon or homemade sweet potato chips with a dip of your choice. We love olive tapenade, a tangy coleslaw or guacamole.
You can also make Halloween-themed treats like banana ghosts by cutting a banana in half and decorating it with chocolate chips for the eyes, nose and mouth. Pumpkins can be made of mini peeled oranges with celery stalks sticking out of the middle for the stem.
Get creative with your beverages too. Instead of soda and juice, try serving “potions” – still or sparking water flavored with berries, apples or oranges. Mini smoothies with vanilla yogurt, canned pumpkin and cinnamon are delicious and filling.
Serve smaller portions
We’re not suggesting you completely forgo your family’s favorite Halloween candy this year. While it’s certainty better to reach for the healthier alternatives, there’s no doubt everyone is going to indulge a little. When you do, tone down the portion size of your candies. Choose fun-size versions of your favorite treats instead of full-size. If you’re baking, try miniature cupcakes, muffins, cookies or brownies.
When setting out party foods or candy, try serving each child individually rather than leaving treats in a bowl on the table. Brock says you can even make small party favor bags and drop the mini treats in there instead.
Have games and activities to keep everyone moving
Another way to keep your party on the healthier side is by encouraging your guests to move. After all, Halloween parties aren’t just about food!
Trick-or-treating on foot can help you get your steps in and burn calories, but games and activities can do the same if you’re socializing at home. Playing allows children to exercise their creativity, imagination and cognitive skills, too.
Some fun game ideas include:
- Zombie dance party
- Costume parade
- Three-legged monster race
- Pumpkin toss or pumpkin bowling
- Scavenger hunt
- Apple eating contest
- Halloween-themed charades
Get creative with leftover candy
If you buy way too much candy, there’s no need eat it for the entire month of November. In fact, you don’t have to eat it at all. Donate your individually wrapped candy or creatively save it for future holidays and projects.
Soldiers’ Angels Treat for Troops allows you to donate candy to veterans in VA hospitals across the country. Along those same lines, the Halloween Candy Buyback initiative allows companies to purchase candy so they can ship it to troops overseas. Operation Gratitude allows you to ship Halloween candy to their office so that they can send it to troops. Other organizations that may accept donations include nursing homes, shelters, Big Brother Big Sister and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
If you want to keep some of the candy, chop it into bite-size pieces and freeze, so you can add it to cookies, cakes, milkshakes, ice cream and gingerbread houses later on. You can also mix leftover candy with whole-grain cereal and nuts to create trail mix, says Brock. And if you really want to get creative, you can use leftover candy as a learning tool. M&Ms, for example, can be a great way to teach your child about colors and counting.
Always play it safe
No matter what you’re doing or eating on Halloween, it’s important to encourage kids to practice safe habits while trick-or-treating. If your children trick-or-treat around the neighborhood, they should always do so with an adult.
Here are some other ways to ensure you have a safe Halloween:
Be creative with costumes: Make sure your children have reflective tape or stickers somewhere on their bags and costumes. If possible, opt for light-colored costumes so your children are easily visible. Always purchase flame-retardant costumes as well. For fun (and safety), Brock likes to use glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark candy buckets too.
Walk safely: It may sound obvious, but when kids get excited, they could take off running, forgetting everything they’ve learned about street safety. Remind them to obey traffic signals, crosswalks and sidewalks. Avoid using electronic devices while walking and be aware of cars that are backing out of driveways or parking spots.
Be a cautious driver: If you’re driving around this Halloween, slow down and be cautious at intersections, medians and curbs. Most kids trick-or-treat between the hours of 5:30pm and 9:30pm – depending on the location – so pay special attention during those hours.
Evaluate the loot: Once your kids come home, you’ll want to be sure to check all of their treats to be sure they’re sealed. Throw away anything that’s been opened, torn, has holes or is rotten. Discard any homemade candies and treats if they weren’t made by someone your family knows.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for many more helpful safety tips. This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.