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Make children make healthy decisions this Halloween

Halloween has turned into a celebration of refined sugar.

It can be difficult to help children make healthy decisions, especially when they don’t want to miss out on the fun of trick-or-treating with friends.

The following are tips to make Halloween a fun and healthy celebration that children will love:

• “Treasures-Not-Treats” is one idea for healthy eating. Treasures are fun for children and can make the day special. Little prizes can be cheap and provide fun, long after Halloween is over. Small Halloween-themed toys, vampire fangs, glow-in-the-dark jewelry, jump ropes, magnets or coupons for the skating rink, etc., are all kid-approved prizes.

• Have special church, community or after-school activities for children.  Some groups call it Fall Festival, Hallelujah Night, Harvest Festivals and Trunk-a-Treats. Only allow certain age children and their families to attend.  Serve healthy snacks, play a variety of in-door games, dress up in costumes (optional) and have contests.

• Another suggestion is to set up your own Halloween store. Let children go trick-or-treating, then let them swap their unhealthy treats for healthy treats. You can provide a variety of choices for them to pick from, including organic candy. Organic treats (including gummy bears, lollipops and gummy worms) can be purchased online, and cut down on added sugar. She also recommends healthier food items, such as apple slices, roasted nuts and fresh fruit.

Healthy options:

• Hand out healthy Halloween treats instead of candy. Lots of companies have started putting snacks into smaller bags for this purpose. For example, goldfish and muddy buddies are great snacks. Others may choose to give treats like trail mix, small boxes of raisins and clementines.

• The No. 1 rule in trying to get your children to eat healthy is to be the example. If your child sees you making healthier choices, they are more likely to try them as well.  It is essential for parents to model healthy eating, and to offer children a variety of food.

• Healthy alternatives might be to distribute non-edible treats, such as stickers, tattoos, bubbles, or other trinkets. Another idea is to use healthy alternatives such as fruit gummies, sugar-free candies, or healthy homemade snacks.

However, we advocate for a little leniency once in a while. Halloween is a special night, so it calls for special treats.  It is okay to have a little candy every once in a while.  We recommend letting children pick one or two pieces that they absolutely must have, and saving the rest for other special occasions.

Another way to help others have a healthier and safer Halloween is to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project–an effort to raise awareness of food allergies.  Families can put a teal colored pumpkin on their porch or steps and offer non-food treats.  The teal pumpkin lets families with children with food allergies that the home is a good choice to trick or treat.

Halloween is one of the major “holidays” of a child’s year, and with a few simple changes, Halloween can be a healthy and festive celebration for children and adults alike. Remember, stay safe and have lots of good fun.

Source: Carolyn Bivins, Teresa Forehand, Tara Glenn- ACES Human Nutrition Diet and Health Team