I love Halloween! Our family embraces the traditional custom of remembering our loved ones who have passed and the modern traditions as well; who doesn’t like getting dressed up, watching scary movies and going door to door!
Here are some ideas if you are worried about the amount of junk food that your children will be haunted by.
Replace the Door to Door Tradition with Your Own
Some families find it is easier to just avoid the whole bag of treats situation. But don’t be afraid, you can easily keep the spirit of Halloween without having to go door to door! For example, some families choose to have an age appropriate Halloween movie night. Some host parties with like-minded friends so everyone can still get dressed up. While other families have fun decorating and making their home exceptionally spooky for all those who come knocking.
Still want to Trick or Treat?
I don’t blame you! People are often surprised that someone like myself, who promotes healthy eating, celebrates Halloween and allows her children to go door to door.
I think there is nothing wrong with letting your children “Trick or Treat”, but recommend that you consider the following practices:
- Aim for better quality when possible
- Use moderation;
- Make sure your children recognize that this is a special occasion and not a reward.
Not a reward: Eating treats as a reward leads to emotional and chronic unhealthy eating habits that are hard to break as adults. Try and take this opportunity to explain to your children that treats should be consumed only on special occasions. Be extra cautious with children under 4 years of age since they are generally too young to understand that treats are for special occasions. Until a child can understand this important concept it is probably best to not give them any treats and focus on a healthy eating foundation & palette.
Moderation: The amount of treats they have gotten that night is usually too much and not good for their health. In order to reduce the quantity, practice moderation. You can have your children pick out a small amount of treats, our personal number is 5 and dispose of the rest. There are various ways to go about this. For instance, you can use the story of the Switch Witch with little ones. Or have your children exchange their loot for either a gift, a night at the movies or a visit to Science North.
Quality: In the past, homemade treats were handed out. Sadly, because of a few “rotten apples”, it is uncommon and often not recommended to give homemade food items to trick or treaters; not to mention it is also time consuming! Today, the custom is to hand-out low quality treats that are sugar laden with questionable food additives that have a negative impact on your child’s health and behaviour. When your children are choosing their treats, help them pick the ones with the least amount of sugar and additives. Again, this is a teachable moment to take advantage of.
My last idea that I would like to share with you is related to what you are handing out at your doorstep!
Fun hand-outs not food handouts
More and more households are giving out non-treat items, mostly for children with allergies but also for health conscious families. If you are handing out this Halloween, you may want to give it a shot in order to promote health within your own community, as well as avoiding the growing possibility that the treats you are handing out will be traded in and disposed of! This year, our family is giving out glow sticks and cute Halloween themed rings & balloons. Other fun items are Halloween themed pencils & erasers, playdough, bouncy balls, crayons, mini colouring books… try checking out places like Dollar Stores.
Keep in mind that practicing a healthy lifestyle should not have a negative effect on your ability to have fun during any holiday or celebration. You just need to be creative, choose wisely and use moderation.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC
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