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I worry about Halloween and the Candy Monster. Any tips on ways to manage this Holiday?

Think of Halloween as a great occasion to play dress up extraordinaire, and try to take a moderate stand on the candy. Preference for sweet foods is not a human failing--it's simply human nature. Candy is fine in moderation, and kids and adults love it. However, it's difficult to eat anything in moderation in our society! Halloween candy usually hits grocery store shelves two months prior to the event, and it's hard to resist the tempting shiny packages of bite-sized treats. Candy is mostly sugar and fat, so we have to realize that it contributes calories with few nutrients. It's a far cry from a health food, but it is a part of the holiday. Here are some suggestions for managing a happy and healthy Halloween:

  1. Wait and buy candy later rather than sooner. We won't eat what we don't bring home.
  2. Feed kids a healthy meal before they go out trick-or-treating so they won't replace dinner with candy.
  3. Make sure children brush their teeth well after enjoying their loot. Candy won't cause juvenile delinquincy, but it will cause tooth decay.
  4. Offer alternatives. Hand out pencils, rings, bracelets, stickers, plastic snakes, sugarless gum --all those things that we typically give kids in birthday goodie bags. Just be careful of choking hazards with young kids.
  5. If you're hosting a Halloween party, make it a seasonal festival--serve pumpkin muffins, spiced apple cider, and have the kids dunk for apples. There are plenty of games and activities that don't involve candy-- decorate little pumpkins, hold a costume contest, visit haunted houses or show a spooky movie (not too scary) with some fresh popped popcorn.
  6. Host a pre-trick or treat Halloween dinner with spooky background music. Hand out a printed menu with gory descriptions of kids' favorite foods. For example, spaghetti and marinara sauce with shredded cheese becomes "brains with blood and pus." Kids really love the idea of eating "gross" food on Halloween, but parents know they are eating a healthful dinner, regardless of it's name. Nutrient-rich cranberry juice mixed with apple cider and orange juice becomes "murky blood." (Drink up, children!!!)
  7. Limit the houses that children visit. Give them a two to three block radius, so they are able to gather a moderate amount of treats only from known neighbors and friends.

With a "no big deal" approach candy is enjoyable, but its not forbidden fruit. It helps to remember that sweet treats have been enjoyed throughout the ages.

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Missouri Extension Site Administrator: 

Last updated:06/17/2015
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