Halloween is a beloved holiday that brings joy to people of all ages, especially children. Halloween is also a time when sugary treats and candy consumption can skyrocket. According to some reports, the average trick-or-treater can eat up to 7,000 calories in Halloween candy each year. To put that into some context that adds up to around three full cups of sugar or 169 sugar cubes. This is definitely not anyone’s idea of a nutritious snack!
You are well aware of the danger that too much sugar can pose to your health, but convincing your kids to ignore mountains of candy in favour of something a little healthier can be especially hard at this time of year. That being said, discussing healthier Halloween options with your child doesn’t have to be a negative experience for either of you. It's important to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding.
For more on the negative impacts of sugar on your health, go here
A few ideas to help you have a productive discussion include:
Choose the Right Time: Find a relaxed moment to discuss Halloween options with your child. Avoid doing it while they are excited about the upcoming holiday or when they are hungry.
Explain the Why: Start by explaining the importance of making healthier choices. You can discuss how too much sugar can affect their health, energy levels, and even mood. Keep it age-appropriate and straightforward.
Listen to Their Perspective: Allow your child to express their feelings and desires. Ask open-ended questions like, "How do you feel about Halloween treats?" and "What are your favorite healthy snacks?" This encourages them to be part of the conversation.
Offer Alternatives: Instead of simply saying "no" to traditional Halloween candies, propose healthier options or alternatives. Mention that it's okay to enjoy some treats but in small amounts.
Make It Fun: Show your child that healthier Halloween options can still be enjoyable. Talk about creative ways to make Halloween-themed healthy snacks or treats together.
Set Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines for Halloween treats. For instance, you can discuss how many pieces of candy they can have per day and when it's okay to enjoy them. Encourage them to be mindful of their choices.
Lead by Example: Children often mimic the behavior of their parents or caregivers. Be a positive role model by making healthier choices yourself and showing that it's possible to enjoy Halloween without overindulging in sweets.
Educate and Empower: Share educational resources, books, or articles that discuss the importance of eating real food. Teach your child about the nutritional value of different foods and the concept of "sometimes" treats.
Involve Them in Shopping: Bring your child along when shopping for Halloween treats or non-food items to give to trick-or-treaters. Let them be part of the decision-making process.
Celebrate Creativity: Encourage your child's creativity by allowing them to come up with healthy Halloween snack ideas or non-food treats to share with friends or at Halloween parties.
Practice Positive Reinforcement: Praise your child for making healthier choices and for their mindfulness around choosing what to indulge in. Recognize their efforts to enjoy Halloween from a more nutritious perspective.
Stay Supportive: Understand that it's okay for your child to enjoy some traditional Halloween treats, but the goal is to help them make informed choices and develop a balanced approach to sweets.
Creating Mindfulness Around Treats
When choosing to indulge or allow your child to enjoy some festive treats, a a few things to emphasize to your child (and remind yourself) are:
Conscious Consumption: When choosing a treat, savor each bite. Encourage your child to appreciate the flavor, texture, and enjoyment of the treat instead of mindlessly gobbling it down.
Portion Control: Dividing candy into smaller portions can help kids become more mindful of their intake. Use small bags or containers to create a visual cue for moderation.
Mindful Eating Habits: Promote the idea of sitting down at the table to enjoy treats rather than eating on the go. This not only fosters mindfulness but also reduces the risk of overeating.
Talk About Balance: Encourage conversations about the balance between enjoying treats and maintaining a healthy diet. Remind kids that it's okay to indulge occasionally but not to overdo it.
Express Gratitude: Teach children to express gratitude for the treats they receive. This can be an opportunity to appreciate the effort others put into making Halloween special.
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Real Food Options for Halloween
It’s not all bad news. With a little bit of preparation and some clever kitchen hacks you can turn Halloween from a trick into a treat for the whole family. There are ways to make Halloween fun whilst providing some real food options. This can help your child feel less excluded during the trick-or-treat season.
Fruit Monsters: Create spooky fruit monsters by adding eyes and funny faces to fruits like clementines, apples, or bananas. This is a creative way to provide a healthy treat. You can make banana ghosts by freezing banana halves and dipping them in some lightly sweetened cacao butter. Add raisins for eyes and a small piece of dark chocolate for the mouth.
Homemade chocolate: Chef Pete has a fool-proof and delicious home-made, dairy-free chocolate recipe here – make it simply as is, or add some dried fruit or nuts for something extra!
Dark Chocolate Dipped Fruits: If you're looking for a more indulgent but still relatively healthy option, dip sliced fruits like strawberries or bananas in dark chocolate.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: After carving pumpkins, don't let those seeds go to waste. Clean and roast them with a bit of olive oil and your choice of seasoning, like salt, cinnamon, or even a pinch of chili powder for a unique twist.
Apple Dipping Bar: Set up an apple dipping bar with apple slices and various toppings like almond butter, peanut butter, or even dark chocolate chips. Kids can dip and decorate their apple slices with their favorite toppings.
Stuffed Dates: Medjool dates are naturally sweet and make an excellent base for stuffed treats. Fill them with almond or peanut butter, a few chopped nuts, or even a small piece of dark chocolate for a delightful sweet bite.
Homemade Granola Bars: Bake homemade granola bars with honey, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. You can even dip them in some high-quality (or home-made) melted chocolate. This gives you control over the ingredients and allows you to make them as sweet or as healthy as you prefer.
Other possibilities: A few options that could be considered “less bad” treats include bought sweets such as organic lollipops, organic fruit snacks and the like. These get pricey and are still candy, but are certainly better options than most of the commercially available Halloween fare!
Discover the world of real-food sweeteners in this post
If you're looking to make some of your own options, here are some delicious recipes that use real-food ingredients:
Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine almond flour, melted coconut oil, honey or maple syrup, egg, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt.
- Fold in the dark chocolate chips.
- Scoop cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
- Let the cookies cool before enjoying.
No-Bake Almond Butter and Date Bars
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, or walnuts)
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- In a food processor, combine dates, almond butter, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, dark chocolate chips (if using), vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture is well combined.
- Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on the sides.
- Press the mixture evenly into the baking dish.
- Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm, then cut into bars.
Coconut Flour Pumpkin Muffins
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
- In a mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- In another bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree, honey or maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
- Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow the muffins to cool before serving.
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Halloween doesn't have to be a sugar-laden nightmare. With a little planning, mindfulness, and creativity, you can reduce sugar intake, teach children to enjoy treats responsibly, and offer delicious real food alternatives. This way, you can celebrate Halloween in a way that's both fun and healthy for the whole family. Remember, it's all about balance and making lasting, positive traditions for your children to cherish.