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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.

10/31/2013-No Tricks, Just Treats

Healthy Halloween Treats

I don't know about anyone else, but two decades ago, this day was THE BEST day of the year (well besides my birthday...and Christmas...and Valentines day...and every day of summer vacation...) My mom was a true champion of creative Halloween costume ideas, in which my sister and I were always some matching/duo of characters.

So now that we are adults (sadly), we can't blame the kids for wanting to fill up their plastic pumpkin head buckets they tote from door to door; we remember the enjoyment. However, we can help kids enjoy Halloween without the OVERINDULGING. Tummy aches from too much candy is never a good way to end the night. So if you've got kiddo's listen up:

Don't send your children trick-or-treating on an empty stomach. Make sure they eat a good healthy meal beforehand to reduce the urge to snack.

Trick-or-treat bags that children carry should be appropriate to their size. Older kids can carry larger bags, but not as large as a shopping bag or plastic garbage bag.

Limit the houses your children can visit to a two or three block radius. That way the treats will most likely come from neighbors and friends, and the moderate amount of treats will be manageable.

Instruct children to wait until they get home to eat any of their goodies so that you can inspect them first (safety first!)

You don't have to pass out high calorie candy to trick-or-treaters at your house this year. Give them a variety of fun, non-candy alternatives to promote health rather than encourage unhealthy choices.

Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, doubling over the past 30 years. Eating in moderation and becoming more physically active could reduce obesity rates in children.

Healthy Food Treats: Think outside the box when choosing treats for trick-or-treaters or party-goers. The calories in all those bite-size Halloween treats add up quickly. Four "bite size" chocolate bars contain approximately 320 calories, 25 jelly beans have 140 calories, and 20 pieces of candy corn add up to 100 calories.

There are other treats that are lower in fat and sugar but may provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. The possibilities for healthy food treats are endless. Set a good example for your own children and the neighborhood kids by passing out healthy treats like these instead of giving them candy.

  • cereal bars
  • snack packets of dried fruit, baked pretzels, nut and seeds (e.g. peanuts*, unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds)
  • trail mix
  • packages of low-fat crackers with cheese or peanut* butter filling
  • animal crackers
  • gold fish crackers
  • graham crackers
  • Cracker jacks
  • 100 calorie packs of various products
  • beef or turkey jerky
  • single serve boxes of ready-to-eat cereal
  • raisins and chocolate covered raisins
  • fig cookies
  • sugar-free gum or hard candy
  • gummy candies made with real juice
  • mini boxes of raisins
  • individual juice drinks (100% juice)
  • snack pack pudding
  • Jello with fruit
  • applesauce
  • bean dip
  • single-serve packets of low-fat microwave popcorn
  • sugar-free hot chocolate or apple cider packets

*Be careful of peanut allergies.

If you choose candy for treats, look for those that are lower in fat and sugar. Choose bite-size candy bars based on the least amount of fat and calories per serving. Better choices are: 3 Musketeers; 100 Grand Bar; Butterfinger; Milky Way; Raisinets; Starburst and York Peppermint Patties. In addition, consider healthier dark chocolate versions.

What to do With Treats Brought Home

Halloween is the perfect time to teach children moderation in eating. Help kids include their treats in a healthy eating plan, set limits on when and how much candy they can have, and stick to those limits.

Inventory your children's candy, and don't let them eat too many treats at once. Let kids choose a few pieces of candy to eat on Halloween night and then eat a few pieces each day after that. Forbidding or restricting candy may cause them to develop patterns of hoarding and obsession with candy.

Teach kids that sweets can fit into their diet in limited amounts, maybe as part of a certain meal, as a snack with a fruit, etc. Combine a treat, such as a miniature candy bar, with a healthy snack like an apple. Make sure the child eats the apple first so they are less hungry for the treat. This provides them with the health benefits of the apple while teaching them healthier eating habits.

Most candy has a long shelf-life. Put the "treat stash" out of children's reach and limit them to eating about two pieces of candy a day. Larger treats, such as chocolate candy bars, can be cut into smaller pieces and frozen. Pull them out weeks or months later for some bite-sized treats.

If your child comes home with too much candy and sweet treats, arrange a buyout. Pay a nickel or dime for each sweet treat they "sell" you, and let them "earn" money for a toy or game they want to buy.

Keep the TREATS in Trick or Treating, but hopefully these helpful TRICKS and tips can modify it to be a healthier experience for kids!

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