Halloween&PumpkinsThe leaves are changing colors, the temperature is dropping and pumpkins abound. Halloween is right around the corner and on the minds of every little ghoul and goblin are sweets, treats and the fun of trick-or-treating. But while most children are eagerly awaiting and planning for the candy filled holiday, many parents are wondering how to have fun while reducing the chance of stomach aches and sugar rushes.

Finding a healthy treat to distribute come Halloween night may sound more like a trick, but Mary Jones Verbovski, a clinical pediatric dietitian at Seattle Children’s Hospital, assures parents there are healthy alternatives and ways to incorporate candy into a child’s well-balanced diet.

“Children often get excited about Halloween because it’s the one time of the year that they know they’re going to get a lot of candy, but remember that all of the sugary treats can be hard on your child’s body,” said Jones Verbovski.

Halloween is meant to be fun, but overindulging in sweet treats doesn’t need to dominate a family’s Halloween traditions.

“As long as you treat candy and the holiday treats involved like they are special and ‘once-a-year,’ it can remain a happy and healthy holiday,” said Jones Verbovski.

6 tips for making healthy choices this Halloween

Eat before trick-or-treating. Before heading out to trick-or-treat, serve a healthy meal so children aren’t as hungry when they start collecting bagfuls of candy. When they are finished trick-or-treating, they’ll also be less likely to overindulge in candy if their tummies are full.

“Eat a meal that incorporates protein and some fat before trick-or-treating. Foods like pizza, chili or grilled cheese are a good choice because the density of the foods offsets the sugar spike from the candy,” said Jones Verbovski.

Pick a smaller candy bag. By choosing a smaller candy bag for children, it will fill up faster, kids will collect less candy and they’ll eat it more sparingly. After a few days, get the candy bag or Halloween bucket out of the house and adjust back to a routine of healthy eating. After all, more holidays are on the way.

Talk to kids about candy. Let children know it’s alright to eat candy in moderation. Don’t talk about foods as either being “good” or “bad.” Consider candy a treat and limit consumption, within reason. Also, candy and other Halloween snacks shouldn’t interfere with eating healthy and well-balanced meals.

“If candy is a big no-no in the home, consider letting your guard down for Halloween. It’s only one day on the calendar,” said Jones Verbovski. “Take your child’s needs and wants into consideration and let them have some.”

Set limits, if needed. Depending on a child’s personality and environment, they may be more apt to overconsume sweets. Consider setting limits for a child. Remind kids that if they save candy for later, their supply will last longer. Also, encourage sharing with others, or trading the candy in for prizes, like toys or books.

Be a role model. Children look up to parents and can be heavily influenced by their environment. By eating candy in moderation and setting a good example, parents can help children develop skills to manage temptation.

“Modeling is everything,” said Jones Verbovski.

Focus on the long run. Halloween is a special day and occasion. By eating well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks while incorporating Halloween candy as treats, families can stay on a healthy track.

However, if a child complains of feeling sick to their stomach or looks pale and disoriented, tell them to stop eating candy immediately. Supervise children and encourage them to be mindful of the amount of candy they eat. Also, encourage drinking plenty of water.

Creative alternatives to candy

Even though the cornerstone of Halloween may be candy, there are alternatives children will enjoy. Consider thinking outside the candy bag this year with these fun items.

  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Halloween themed toys – false teeth or fake bats and spiders
  • Glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets – great for safety as well
  • Art supplies – pens, coloring pencils and coloring books
  • Books

If novelties aren’t alluring, think about giving away healthier food items.

  • Store-bought popcorn balls
  • Trail mix
  • 100 calorie snack packs – great for smaller portions!
  • Bags of pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Low-fat hot chocolate mix
  • Chewing gum

Having a happy, healthy Halloween may sound like a contradiction, but with a few small adjustments, it’s possible. Staying on track during the holidays shouldn’t be a nightmare. With a little creative thinking, any ghoulish sweet can be transformed into a healthy treat.

Here are also some fun, creative snacks for kids:

  • Ghosts: Bananas with chocolate chip cookie eyes make the perfect spooky snack.
  • Pumpkins: Tangerines with celery sticks are both nutritious and adorable.
  • Bats: Cheese, a bat-shaped cookie cutter and whole grain crackers are the perfect combination for this snack that kids will enjoy.

Start a new tradition this year by thinking outside the candy wrapper. Have a happy, healthy Halloween!

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If you’d like to interview Mary Jones Verbovski, please contact Seattle Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at press@seattlechildrens.org.