Four Tips for a Healthy Halloween

Every year I struggle with finding the perfect balance to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, without going overboard. I like the fun, but I don't want my kids to fill up on all of the processed candy and sugar that goes hand-in-hand with the holiday. Here are some tips to ensure your Halloween (and the days following) is full of treats, not tricks! 1- Be the change you want to see in the world. Yes, Gandhi and Halloween make a perfect match! One of the easiest changes for me to make was switching from passing out candy to filling a huge cauldron with toys for trick-or-treaters. Some other ideas are offering raisins, pretzels, pencils or temporary tattoos. The bonus is most kids don’t have to wait to tear into a cool toy; and the instant gratification cancels out any lingering disappointment of not getting more candy. I don’t feel guilty or deprive the neighborhood kids, but I still have the chance to be a good example. If you are a purist, and insist on handing out candy, look for organic alternatives that you don't have to feel bad about passing out. 2- Have your treats on the side. Adults and kids alike are tempted to over-indulge when surrounded by nothing but candy. A family tradition my parents started is to have a bounty of food available all day, so when the sun sets and it’s candy time, everyone is already stuffed! Our favorites are apple cider, organic chili or a hearty stew simmering (yum), a wide array of fresh, seasonal organic fruit, vegetables for dipping in hummus, and chips with salsa. If you plan ahead and create a similar bounty in your own kitchen, it really sets the mood and eliminates surprise ingredients or extra sugar. 3- Keep busy! Who keeps you busier than friends and family? By turning the focus from candy to good times, memories are counted rather than calories. Play some fun games like pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern, toss a bean bag into the cauldron while blindfolded, play Pop Goes the Pumpkin, tell ghost stories, decorate Halloween treat bags, or if all else fails carve more pumpkins! 4- How to handle the aftermath? Sadly, Halloween celebrations only last one day. The candy, however, can linger well into Thanksgiving! Many dentists turn this sugary holiday around by giving rewards for donated Halloween candy. Another idea is to pay your children a set amount for every piece of candy they want to “sell” you. If the kids in your life are anything like mine, they will welcome any money that comes their way! A nice variation is to trade the candy for a special privilege or outing; 10 pieces might be worth a trip to the movies or staying up past bedtime. Instead of getting elaborate simply let your kids feed the ants. Go outside (far away from your home!) and let the little ones proceed to stomp, smash, throw and destroy the leftover candy. This option lets them burn though some sugar, doesn’t cost a thing, is fantastic entertainment for parents, and creates a great transition into sharing for Thanksgiving. (Bring a hand broom and sweep up when you’ve stomped all the candy.) Have a better idea? Please post a comment below if you have ideas or tactics that have helped you with this tricky time. Hopefully with these tips, and a little creativity, this Halloween will be the happiest, healthiest yet!