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treats, not tricks for a healthier Halloween

When it comes to Halloween, I usually go all out and let the kids loose with few rules about their activities, decorations, and the inevitable amassed pile of junk food and just plain junk.

Having said that, it was easier to ignore the junk when the kids were too young to know the difference; we’d just hide or throw away every piece of cheap crap/candy but a small handful of raisin boxes and pretzels. Now that we have a kindergartner who knows what’s up, it would appear I have to be a little more conscious of the candy part of Halloween.

After chatting with mom friends and researching the issue a bit, I am happy to report that there are ways we can insert real food in the mix, and I’m sharing a few ideas on the blog today.


How to incorporate healthy traditions into Halloween festivities:

1. Give Candy to the Switch Witch

Last year, a friend told me about bringing in the switch witch to deal with the treat bag full of candy. Since Vivi has a Nancy Drew-like ability to sniff out the truth, I’m not particularly crazy about starting yet another tradition built upon fictitious creatures bringing toys/money/treats to our house. But if you’re feeling stuck, it seems like a better solution to swap in a book and a few healthier treats than eating all the candy. As with Santa, I’d kept the backstory minimal.

2. Sell Candy to a Dentist to Support the Troops

It sounds like I’m making this tip up, but it’s a real thing! If you have older kids who understand the value of a few bucks, see if any dentists in your area are buying the candy back. They don’t always give out cash, but you can get coupons for local businesses or dental hygiene kits. The dentists then send the candy to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit that makes care packages for the military. I love the idea of explaining the importance of supporting the troops to our children, especially since they have two grandparents who have served in the military (one of whom is still active in the National Guard!).

3. Hand Out Healthier Treats

Lisa from 100 Days of Real Food discussed some good alternatives to giving out candy. I limit the amount of paper junk we bring into the house (hence our decision to repurpose old crayons on Valentine’s Day), so I’m not keen on giving out a big bowl of plastic snakes or light sticks.

As for candy, Whole Foods has several good candy/snack options, including my personal favorite, Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups (n.b.: both Endangered Species and Justin’s are verified as recommended on FEP’s chocolate list). Here’s another list of non-GMO candy options. Our solution is simply not to hand out candy, at least for this year. There are plenty of houses giving it out, and our town even sponsors an earlier round of trick-or-treating at the local stores.

4. Keep Some Candy to Build Self-Regulation

I’m not opposed to my kids getting treats with processed ingredients every now and then; after all, I’ve eaten my share of Sour Patch Kids and Skittles and seem to have turned out fine. I also think there’s something to be said for cultivating an addiction if you deprive kids of sugary sweets too much (not that I think treats necessarily need to include processed ingredients to count as treats).

A good friend pointed out that she remembers developing a strategy as a kid for how much candy she’d eat and how much she’d save. She noted that she was never as good at saving candy as her sister, who’d manage to have pieces left right up to the next Halloween. I think what she’s getting at is that much like with the marshmallow test, that something good can come over letting older kids develop their self-regulation by deciding when and how much to eat.

Where does your family fit in this conversation? Are you doing anything to try to limit processed junk this Halloween?

Author’s note: This post is part of Tuesday Greens, Real Food Wednesday, and Works for Me Wednesday