Your kids have their costumes ready and are counting down the days until October 31st! Keep your family’s heart health in mind this Halloween. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity rates have dropped slightly in New Jersey in recent years but the issue of obesity continues to be a top health concern among parents.
Don’t get spooked! The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association offer these tips for a healthier Halloween:
For the Trick-or-Treater
- Fill up first. Having a healthy meal BEFORE your kids go trick-or-treating can reduce their temptation to snack while walking or to overindulge.
- Bag it. Be sure to find the right size collection bag for your child and steer clear of the pillow case method. If you encourage your child to only take one piece of candy from each house, they’ll be able to visit more houses in the neighborhood.
- Get rid of it! Worried you’ll have leftover Halloween candy until long after Valentine’s Day? Using a smaller bag will help, but sometimes kids STILL end up with a ton of extra sweets. Here are some ideas of what to do with the leftover candy:
- Keep enough candy for one piece a day for one or two weeks (long enough for the excitement to wane). Throw away, donate or repurpose the rest.
- When your child asks for a piece of candy, make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some nuts, or celery with peanut butter.
- “Buy back” candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at the park, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
- Donate excess candy to a homeless shelter or care package program for troops overseas. A familiar sweet treat from home can be comforting at the holidays.
- Get moving. Get some exercise by making this Halloween a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses or streets you’ll visit, or compete to do as many as you can. Bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes for walking!
- Safety first. Check expiration dates and inspect all edibles before allowing children to eat them. Don’t let children eat anything with questionable or unknown ingredients, especially if they have food allergies.
- Have a plan. Halloween can be a great time to talk with kids about making smart choices, the need for balance and moderation, and how to achieve an overall healthy eating pattern. Plan in advance how much candy they’ll be allowed to take at each house, keep and eat. If they’re old enough, let them help decide what to do with excess candy.
For the Party Host
- Up the fright factor. Serve healthy snacks that fit the Halloween theme. There are lots of creative ideas being shared online at this time of year!
- Play with food. Incorporate healthy foods into activities, such as decorating oranges like Jack-O-Lanterns, making banana ghosts, and bobbing for apples.
- Keep ‘em moving. Include plenty of physical activities, like a zombie dance party, three-legged monster race, spider crawl or pumpkin toss.
- Rethink your drink. Don’t forget that cutting back on sugary treats includes soda and sugar-sweetened beverages. Offer water, unsweetened tea, 100% juice, or fat-free/low-fat milk instead. Make a festive Halloween punch from sparkling water and a splash of 100% orange juice, garnished with plenty of orange slices and black grapes or blackberries.
For the Stay-At-Homer
- Be THAT house and give out healthier treats. You don’t have to pass out candy on Halloween. Start a new tradition on your street and give out healthier treats or non-edible items. Here are some ideas:
- Clementines or small oranges decorated like Jack-O-Lanterns (with non-toxic ink)
- 100% juice boxes or pouches
- Snack-sized packages of pretzels, popcorn, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts or pumpkin seeds
- Snack-sized packages of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as baby carrots or apple slices
- Mini boxes of raisins
- 100% real fruit strips, ropes or leathers
- Squeezable yogurt tubes or pouches
- Sugar-free chewing gum
- Opt for non-edible items:
- Glow sticks or small glow-in-the-dark toys
- Crayons and coloring books
- Stickers or stamps
- Soap bubble makers
- Plastic spider rings or vampire teeth
Be careful to avoid giving very small items that could be a choking hazard to little ones.
- Who’s in charge? Hand out treats to each trick-or-treater – one per child – instead of letting them decide how much to take. If you have more than one item, ask them to choose which they prefer. This is a great way to get control of your Halloween budget, too!
- Avoid the whole mess. Want to avoid candy and masses of kids at your door? Dress your family up in their costumes and go see a movie. Or deliver healthy Halloween treats to your local police and fire stations, nursing home or children’s hospital.