Signup for our newsletter to receive pregnancy, parenting and child health updates.

articles and blog

Halloween can be a difficult time when trying to balance the overload of sweet treats and the healthy lifestyle goals that we set for our family.

Is it even possible to balance the two? I believe that it is, and with a few suggestions, you and your family can have your candy and eat it too. Parents need to remember that we need to be good role models for our children, especially when it comes to what and how much Halloween candy we consume.

Think Outside the Box

We can show our children in several different ways what our values are when it comes to picking out what we are going to hand out on Halloween night. Several years ago a colleague conducted her own research project at Halloween by handing out alternatives to the traditional candy. She gave the option to both younger and older trick-or-treaters, and found that the younger kids were more excited when they received a "prize." Some of the prizes included: crayons, coloring books, markers, paints, temporary tattoos, stickers, pencils, glow sticks, hair ties, bubbles, funny masks, coins, fancy erasers, and small stuffed animals. Some non-food items are suitable for all ages, but caution should be taken when given to children under the age of three.

Encouraging children to be more physically active can also be accomplished through what we hand out at the door. There are several small and inexpensive toys that can get kids up, moving and interacting with parents. They might include bouncy balls, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, beanbags and plastic fliers.

Thinking outside the box when it comes to handing out treats to all those trick-or-treaters can also send a clear message to our own trick-or-treaters. Giving out treats that are lower in fat and sugar but can provide vitamins, minerals and fiber is always a possibility. There are snack size packages of pretzels, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, trail mixes, crackers and cereal bars. Other options may include sugar free hot chocolate or apple cider packets and individual 100% juice boxes. As well as, snack pack pudding, Jell-O with fruit, gummy candies made with real juice, and single serve packets of microwave popcorn.

Better Options Inside the Box

If you choose to hand out candy for treats, look for ones that are lower in fat and sugar. Some options include, but are not limited to: 3 Musketeers, Butterfingers, Milky Way, Starburst, Raisinettes and Peppermint Patties. 

Talking Moderation

Halloween is also the perfect time to discuss and demonstrate moderation with children. Letting them pick out a few treats on Halloween night and then letting them have a few pieces each day after that is very acceptable. This shows our children that treats can fit into a healthy eating pattern, especially if they are incorporated alongside nutrient dense foods. Forbidding or restricting candy may cause children to develop patterns of hoarding and obsessing with it. Finding that fine line is the key, setting reasonable limits and sticking to them will help your children learn about moderation, variety and balance.

Most candy has a very long shelf life. Putting up the 'treat stash' and limiting our children to one or two pieces of candy a day can take several months for it to be depleted. You can also freeze most candy in small freezer safe bags for later use.

Candy Buyout

If your child comes home with too much candy, you may want to arrange for a buyout. You can pay what you feel is reasonable for each sweet treat that they want to sell. This will allow them to earn money for a toy or book that they have wanted to buy.

There is no reason not to allow children to enjoy Halloween; it is a festive day when they get to use their imagination, dress up and get treats. Enjoy the day, but also be a good role model when it comes to teaching them about moderation and healthy habits.

Nancy Urbanec

Nutrition Expert from UNL Extension

Nancy Urbanec brings over twenty-five years of Food Safety and Nutrition experience to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service. As an Associate Extension Assistant for UNL, she has a degree in Family and Consumer Science and Secondary Education from Wayne State College. Nancy works with both adults and youth in the areas of food safety and healthy lifestyles. Learn more about Nancy and the other UNL Extension nutrition experts at ...

Learn more about this author

Categories: nutrition, lifestyle,