Simple Substitutions for Halloween Treats
For a celebration with origins connected to the fall harvest, Halloween seems to have become known simply as the one night of the year when children can easily amass a whole year’s worth of candy in just a few hours — and apparently attempt to eat it in record-breaking times. The exact roots of Halloween remains disputed but what remains clear for parents is that, to our horror, this day has become synonymous with the word candy.
With all the talk of clowns and the Upside Down this year, let’s not forget what’s lurking in those pumpkin-shaped pails. While we can’t go back in time and stop the handing out of the first sweet on October 31, we can celebrate a healthy Halloween this year by making simple swaps that will leave the kids feeling treated rather than tricked.
Swap This for That
Kids are taught from a young age to gravitate toward bright and colourful candy wrappers, and they never seem to learn from last year’s stomach aches that eating a handful at once never works out for the best. Instead, see if your kids are willing to trade off their candy after trick-or-treating for something else they’ve been wanting, like a special toy or even healthier alternatives you’ve purchased. For instance, if your child loves chocolate, switch out the white and milk chocolate for organic dark chocolate that’s actually made with more cacao than a bunch of artificial ingredients. Also look for alternatives that you can hand out instead candy, such as granola bars, seed packs or organic juice boxes. Some cites even offer Halloween coupons that you can give out for a free skate or swim at the local community centre.
Back to Basics
Instead of focusing on what they can’t have, focus on the healthy treats they can have. Foster their taste for fruits, which unlike candy come with many other healthy nutrients like vitamins and fibre, by turning it into a dessert for Halloween. Try out this recipe for a delicious and organic Apple Cinnamon Fudge that you can make for your kids and all of their friends — even the parents will enjoy it too!
At your local CHFA Member health food store, you can also find organic fruit snacks that will satisfy their sweet tooth without a sugar overload. Choose snacks that are made with real fruit extracts and without artificial dyes, or opt for dried fruit that doesn't contain added sugar or artificial preservatives. Raisins, banana chips and dried apricots and cranberries are all great alternatives to traditional Halloween candy.
Focus on the Experience
Here’s another solution that you may not have considered: choosing an alternative to trick-or-treating. Kids love going around and ringing their neighbours’ doorbells because of the ritual that includes dressing up in a costume, hanging out with their friends on a school night and being rewarded with something that they usually don’t get to enjoy every day.
Consider taking trick-or-treating out of the equation — and with it the junk food — and replacing it with another experience. Communities across Canada are embracing the idea of replacing this with a trip to an amusement park, recreational centres, local farms, the movie theatre and other fun activities to great success, proving that it’s more about enjoying the day together rather than just collecting wrapped, processed sugar.
Put a Limit On It
Of course, candy can be like the ghost that never leaves the building and come back to haunt your kids’ cravings. Limit the size of containers that your kids trick-or-treat with and the length of time they’re out for. They don’t necessarily need to fill a large pillow case and be out for five hours to enjoy the night. After collecting and sorting through the candy, store and dole out to your child what and how much you’re comfortable with them consuming each day. Letting them keep a huge stash of candy on the kitchen counter or in the snack cupboard will guarantee binge eating and sugar highs for the next week (or until they run out!).
Controlling the quantity and quality of the treats they’re eating, and emphasizing the importance of spending time with family and friends will help them have a healthier Halloween. After all, teaching kids how to maintain balance is crucial for creating healthy lifelong habits.
Michelle W. Book is the in-house Holistic Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), an organization dedicated to educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health.