Many families view Halloween as the biggest “cheat day” of the year, where they can binge on all the candy the kids collect from around the neighborhood. While trick-or-treating and snacking on the candy they collect is fun and exciting for your children, it’s important to remember that a massive influx of candy and sugary treats can often derail the hard work spent on limiting sugar intake the rest of the year. While a small amount of sugar may prove harmless for many kids, the difficulty in managing the sheer quantity the candy in one night is a challenge, and having a plan in place before Halloween night is key in managing expectations for both parents and kids.
-Think about whether you want to limit sugar or avoid it all together this Halloween. Consider that sugar intake increases your child’s risk for cavities, excessive weight gain, and of course belly aches.
-Want to limit sugar but stumped on what to replace it with? The pumpkin—a multipurpose tool on Halloween—is a great, healthy food choice. In addition to painting the outside, you can make use of the pumpkin flesh (or canned pumpkin puree) and seeds to cook with.
—Try sprinkling coconut oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg on pumpkin seeds, and baking in the oven on 400°F until warm and toasty (around 10 minutes).
—Use pumpkin puree to paint scary faces on apple slices and crackers. You might also try using raisins, dried fruit pieces, and peanut butter dollops to create some spooky faces and ghostly shapes.
-Finding a new and improved version of old school trick-or-treating may help with limiting the sugar rush as well. Maybe trick-or-treating this year is a backyard activity with your kids and their friends, or perhaps a costume competition with a few neighbors. Having the kids involved in the planning ramps up excitement and gives them ownership over creating this new tradition.
-Another way to go sugarless this Halloween is to focus on other sources of “treats” and rewards unrelated to food. Offer your kiddo the chance to trade candy in for movie tickets, favorite school supplies, flavored lip glosses or temporary tattoos.
Ayelet Goldhaber, MS, RD is a registered dietician in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.