By Beth Peralta
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I have great memories of figuring out costumes, parades at school, and trick-or-treating with my family and good friends. Trick-or-treating usually involved wearing a winter coat over the costume or carrying an umbrella, but such is Halloween in Illinois. Many of those memories also involve candy, of course – only packaged items acceptable, and all candy thoroughly checked by my mom before I was allowed to consume any. It was the 80’s and early 90’s, after all. Halloween was not complete without discussing potential razor blades in candy bars.
I’ve been a dietitian for around 10 years now, and there is always a guilty feeling when I prepare for trick-or-treating. I remember being the kid and loving the “good” candy (Twix bars, M&Ms, and Kit Kats might have been my favorite). I also remember that we had to throw out a good chunk of it right around Christmas time because we forgot about it after a few days and it sat, uneaten. However, now I have a nutrition background and I understand how harmful too much sugar and fat can be on the body. And that causes me to feel guilty – hoping that no one I know sees the candy in my cart when it comes time to purchase everything for trick-or-treaters.
However, I have found that this is the type of situation that deserves compromise in my life. There are many cute and tasty options to hand out on Halloween in addition to (or in place of) the candy. If you worry about this too, take my lead – pick up a fun non-food option in addition to your sweet treat of choice. This also helps if some of your trick-or-treaters have food allergies or follow special diets that could make candy hard to include on a regular basis.
I asked one of my dietitian buddies for some ideas, and she had some new suggestions I had not even seen at the store yet.
“I love all the new ideas for Halloween giveaways, like pretzels in orange and black snack-sized bags and “scarrots,” [which are] baby carrots that come with temporary glow-in-the-dark tattoos. These lower sugar treats are actually fairly comparable in price to traditional candy. Nonfood giveaways like erasers and pencils are also unexpected treats,” said chef and dietitian Lori Carlson, MS RD LDN.
As for our house, we’ve got some Goldfish crackers in small Halloween-themed bags, spider rings (who doesn’t love these?) and yes, some candy, too.
Staying healthy around the holidays is all about balance – Halloween is tough, but the goal is not to let the candy take over. Aim for healthy habits, allow yourself a few treats, and find somewhere else for the candy to go after a few days.
This is a first in a series that I will be writing for Chambanamoms about healthier holidays. Next up – what to do with all that candy after the holiday is done.
What steps do you take to keep your family healthy during the candy-fest that is Halloween?
Beth Peralta has lived in Champaign-Urbana since 1998, minus a few summers and nine months in grad school. She is a mother to Natalie, wife to Andrew, a registered dietitian nutritionist, and an active community volunteer with the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana. Free time is spent getting back into running after baby, trying new recipes, and checking out things to do in CU with her family.