Making Halloween Healthy

A Brigham and Women's nutritionist tells us how to enjoy the candy-filled holiday and still be healthy.

Halloween goodies image via shitterstock

Halloween goodies image via shutterstock

Halloween doesn’t have to be all about sugar-filled sweets. Kathy McManus, director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says you can shun the typical Halloween give-away and still make the neighborhood kids happy.

But, you still should proceed with caution. While some of these tips will definitely make Halloween healthier, we can’t say that it will save you from an egging or getting toilet papered. (At least that’s what you’d get in my old neighborhood if you give out anything but candy.)

Here are McManus’s tips for a healthy halloween:

Give tricks, not treats.  “[Give out] fun prizes include a small toy from a party store, stickers, crayons or colorful pencils.”

Give the “good” stuff.  “Packaged sunflower seeds, popcorn, or a small granola bar are healthier choices than candy.”

Chew on this.  “Sugar-free gum is a great alternative to candy.”

Stick to small portions.  “Bite-sized treats will help kids eat their candy in moderation.”

Beware of sugar.  “You may think non-chocolate treats are healthier because they don’t contain fat. Instead, they are most likely loaded with sugar, making them no healthier than the fat-filled chocolates.”

McManus says that Halloween can tempt even the most health-conscious kid to stuff himself with sweets. “But with a little planning, you can help your child avoid the dreaded sugar high, sugar crash, and Halloween stomach ache,” she says.

Here’s McManus’s tips for avoiding post-Halloween stomach aches and sugar-filled nightmares:

Limit the looting.  “With your child involved in the planning, map out a limited number of houses to collect treats.”

Count the candy.  “Before Halloween, talk with your child about a designated number of candies he or she can eat on Halloween night and on the days that follow.”

Eat before heading out.  “Before trick-or-treating, serve a meal that you know your child will enjoy to ensure he or she will be full before going out to collect candy.”

Keep the favorites. “Talk to your child about splitting his or her candy in half. Let your child pick half of the candies to keep, then give away or dispose of the other half.”

Avoid gorging. “Don’t let your child eat candy while watching TV or using the computer.  This only leads to mindless eating and often results in an excessive intake of candy.

For the Adults

Halloween candy has been on shelves since summer. With so much candy around, it’s hard for adults to resist the temptation to dip into the treat bag. McManus says that with a little discipline you can get through Halloween without scaring up a few extra pounds. Here’s how to avoid the Halloween temptation:

Eat candy.  “Do not deny yourself candy altogether. Instead, indulge with a keen sense of mindfulness and moderation.”

Buy candy you dislike. “This will help you keep yourself from dipping into the stash before the big night.”

Procrastinate. “Don’t buy your Halloween candy until October 31. This will prevent pre-holiday snacking.”

Count calories. “Before Halloween arrives, make a decision about how many treat calories per day you will allow yourself.  Keep this calorie amount below 200 calories.”

Work it out.  “On days you decide to indulge in extra calories, do more physical activity to burn those calories off.”