Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Tips: All Treats, No Tricks

Halloween is a fun day for children. Annnnd adults. We get to wear costumes, go through haunted houses, gather at Halloween themed parties, and for the little ones, trick-or-treat for candy.

Most people realize that overloading on candy is not the best option, but often feel trapped by the notion that Halloween revolves around delicious, sweet confections. We usually think of Halloween as trick-or-treating for kids, but adults are not immune to Halloween snacking either. These tips will help you prepare you and your child for a ghoulishly fun Halloween evening/week/weekend without the ghastly sugar highs and upset stomachs.

Do not make trick-or-treating/Halloween parties the focus of the day
First, make costume design a part of the holiday. Rather than buying a costume out of a bag, spend the day or part of it brainstorming costumes and then making it. Or if you do not have much time, design an accessory for a pre-bought costume—fairies need wings and Spiderman needs his webs! Recruit kids or your friends to help.

Focus on alternates
There are so many fun fall activities like going to a haunted house, pumpkin picking/carving, and hayrides. Children and adults will have a ton of fun, especially if you get another opportunity to dress in a costume! You can wear it more than once?! What?! That's right.

Practice moderation
If you do have trick-or-treaters...once they return home, allow them to choose a set amount of candy, like 3 fun/mini-sized pieces for example. Let's be real....they already ate 5 on the way home. Let them pick which ones they want. Unless your children offer you some, do not eat their candy. Remember, we want to stay on track too! Unless of course, that one piece of dark chocolate that your child hates is calling your name... :) 

Then, allow them to select any 2 (fun/mini size) remaining pieces of candy every day for 3 more days. So maximum 10 pieces maximum of candy popping Halloween delish. It's not the one day a year holidays that get's the once a year turned 200 days because we've stashed so much candy from holidays and eat it year 'round! 10 is more than enough.

Also, make the selection process an event so your child can begin to connect with food healthfully and learn that it's all about moderation. Ask them which pieces they chose and why. You'll learn which ones they prefer, but more importantly they will learn that just because we have access to all these treats doesn't mean they are equal or that we need them all. Hard for a 5 year old to understand, I know. But, sit with them as they choose and watch their decision-making process. It may amaze (and entertain) you to learn how much or little a child thinks about candy.

Simply choose better options or give a non-food instead
Yes, I will be the only one on the block handing out stickers on Halloween. Or gum. Maybe lame options to some trick-or-treaters, but what kid doesn't like smacking their gum, trying to make bubbles...or decorating walls with stickers?! It's simply against my good nature to offer pure sugar and fat to innocent souls.

If you choose to offer snacks to trick-or-treaters, choose options that provide at least a little nutritional value. Compared to most other candies, dark chocolates, mini packages of popcorn, raisins, pretzels, or Fig Newtons® have less sugar, plus some fiber, a dash of protein, and a nibble of antioxidants.

If you give candy (gasp!), give the mini-sized pieces rather than the fun-sized ones, which usually are at least twice the size and calories. Try to avoid giving any snacks that are pure sugar. Look at the nutrient label and if the only calories come from carbohydrates and sugar (no fat or protein), then it is a safe bet that it is all sugar.

Other non-food options: temporary Halloween tattoos  pencils, stickers, dracula teeth, strands of colored hair, funky Halloween party favors

Out of sight, out of mind
Get rid of leftover candy from the trick-or-treating or that you did not hand out as soon as possible! Don't take it to school or work; they likely got an abundance of sugar too. It won't do anyone any good. Throw it away or donate the sweets and treats to a shelter. This way you (and your children) do not have devilishly unhealthy snack options staring you in the face.

Eat Real Fall Food
Halloween is so much fun because of the traditions that ensue...crisp air, pumpkin everything, sweet smells of cinnamon and nutmeg. Candy is just candy. It will always be there. But spaghetti squash with the nickname 'brains'? Or renaming a bright red berry smoothie 'cup o' blood? What about bran muffins with tombstone markers? Total Halloween treats! 

The sooner you return to normal habits, the sooner you can prepare for the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, which of course also revolves around food.

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