- Experts say parents can encourage healthy eating habits for their children during Halloween, even amid all the candy.
- They recommend that parents not place too many restrictions because that can make candy even more enticing.
- Instead, they suggest serving a healthy meal before trick-or-treating, as well as letting children choose which one or two pieces of candy that want to eat at any given time.
Try not to “ghost” on healthy eating during Halloween festivities.
Instead, experts say parents may want to consider treating Halloween candies as an opportunity to help their children learn balance and lifelong healthy eating habits.
Yes, it’s possible for Halloween to be both fun and healthy, according to Rachel Dyckman, RDN, CDN, MS, a New York City-based registered dietician.
She explained to Healthline how and offers strategies to get started.
Even before the candy comes home, you can begin preparing for success.
Dyckman says before sending your kids trick-or-treating, try to serve a nutritious, balanced meal. This should include a protein, vegetable, and complex carbohydrate. Some whole-wheat pasta with vegetables and meat or a plant-based meat alternative, for example.
“This way, they won’t be as hungry or likely to overindulge in candy,” she said.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital agrees, suggesting parents feed children dinner before the Halloween festivities, as this “will prevent candy from substituting dinner as well as prevent overeating of treats.”
Dyckman suggests that talking with your children about fullness cues is more effective than simply saying “no.”
You can start the discussion, she says, by encouraging your children to pay attention to how they are feeling when eating candy and how they feel afterward.
And if your children still ask to eat a larger amount of Halloween candy than what is reasonable, you can bring up this topic of fullness cues again and help them come to their own conclusions, which may feel less restrictive and yield better results.
“Being overly restrictive with candy can often make children want it more,” said Dyckman.
“When we make certain foods inaccessible to children, these foods are ‘put on a pedestal’ and become more desirable,” she said.
“That being said, we also don’t want children to eat too much candy and experience negative health consequences,” Dyckman said.
But finding a healthy balance is possible.
While you can’t always predict what your children will bring home from school or trick-or-treating, you do have control over the types of candies you keep at home.
“Nowadays, there are a variety of candy brands that make slightly healthier versions lower in sugar and free from artificial food dyes,” said Dyckman.
Dark chocolate-based candies tend to be healthier, she says, as they are lower in sugar compared to gummy candy, lollipops, and taffy.
“Chocolate is also less likely to stick to teeth and cause cavities,” Dyckman said.
“Some chocolate candies contain nuts, which offer some nutritional value as well, as long as your child is not allergic,” she said.
Her suggestions include healthier options that taste similar to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Mounds candy bars, including Justin’s Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Unreal Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars.
Halloween is about more than candy, experts point out.
Sensible options for trick-or-treaters, suggests Nationwide’s and Eat Right, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also include things such as:
- granola bars
- 100 percent juice boxes
- gummies made with 100 percent fruit juice and added vitamin C
- whole-grain cheddar flavored crackers
- sugar-free gum
- mini bags of pretzels
- mini rice cereal treat bars
- individual fruit cups
Eat Right recommends letting your children make different piles for candies.
For example, a pile of “personal favorites” and a pile to donate. They suggest donating to shelters or sending in care packages to people serving overseas.
After the sorting is complete, allow your children to choose their own candies from their personal pile.
“Allowing children to choose one piece of candy, or two fun-sized pieces of candy for dessert each night can help to moderate their sugar intake without giving them a complex about it,” said Dyckman.
Finally, you’ll want to think about the timing of when your children are eating their candy treats in the days after Halloween night.
Giving the candies out earlier in the day, but after a nutritious meal, is probably best according to experts.
That way, the sugar has enough time to wear off before it’s time to unwind for the day.
“Since sugar can be stimulating, it’s best to allow at least 2 hours between candy and bedtime,” said Dyckman.