Halloween can be a scary time of year if you’re a parent — spooky scary if you’re a parent-nutritionist. First, there are the endless requests for more treats — Pleeeaassse, mom, just one more? And don’t forget about those bottomless bags of candy, which linger long after Halloween has come and gone.
But don’t stress. I’m a firm believer that there’s always wiggle room for fun — this is true in life, and with your diet. And remember that Halloween comes along just once a year, so it’s OK to embrace the witches, goblins and even the candy. Still, you can try to contain the sugar rush with some of my personal tricks.
Shop wisely, and procrastinate. Put off candy shopping until the very last minute so you don’t have sweet treats lying around the house for weeks before the holiday. And don’t even think about buying your favorite sweets to hand out — it’s just too tempting! Choose the types of candy you desire the least to ensure you have plenty left come Halloween night. You can try non-food treats, like pencils and stickers, if you dare. But be warned: The one year I attempted it, I got major backlash. Since then, I’ve given out candy (yes, you heard that right), but I purchase only bite-size items that I’m not personally drawn to.
Try healthier treats. There are lots of “better-for-you” snack selections, like popcorn, trail mix and real fruit chews. And surprisingly, I have the blessing of my kids and their friends. I’ve promised to stick with the sweetest varieties like Monkey Love, Berry’d Treasure and Cocoa Loco. I think the kids will be happy — and I know the parents will.
Serve a pre-trick-or-treat meal. I like to fuel my kids and their friends with a dish loaded with protein and fiber before they head out. That way, they’re full and energized for the walk. I like to imagine that it dissuades them from gobbling up one goodie after another. Hey, some things are worth doing even if it’s for our own benefit. This year I’m making a big batch of my Turkey Chili.
Put a healthy spin on splurges. If you’re hosting a party, try whipping up some nutritious versions of popular sweets and give them festive and fun names. For example, to create your own Junior Monster Mints, combine peppermint extract with chocolate pudding and use marshmallows for dipping. Or whip up Creepy, CrawlyCrunch bars by mixing melted dark chocolate with brown rice puffs, popping them in the freezer to harden, then cutting into bars.. You can make your own Cookies and Scream by adding crumbled Chocolate Teddy Grahams into vanilla yogurt or serve Count Chocular Fondue with lots of fruit dippers.
Give back. Halloween tends to be more problematic for parents than their children. Kids typically OD on sugar that day, and then forget about the stash the next day or the day after that. Parents, on the other hand… not so much. Bring leftover candy to your office; leave it in a bowl in the break room and — poof! — watch it disappear. Or find another willing recipient, like a neighbor or even your local dentist, believe it or not. Some offer buy-back programs — you trade in your candy for prizes or cash. (Click here to find one in your area.)