Everybody loves candy. And, unsurprisingly, Halloween is when we go BIG on candy. In the U.S., theaverage amount of candy eaten on Halloween ranges from just over 1 pound up to 3.5 pounds—PER PERSON! Theaverage child in the U.S. will collect between 3,500 and 7,000 calories worth of candy on Halloween night. As a result, the average trick-or-treater can consume around 3 cups of sugar, which is 600 grams of sugar—the equivalent of drinking over 18 cans of Coca-Cola!
And this trend isn’t unique to the U.S. On Halloween in the U.K., theaverage child also consumes over 3,000 calories from candy, and the average parent consumes about 1,700 calories from candy. But, even amidst the candy craze that comes with Halloween, it IS possible to plan for a healthier Halloween. I’m sharing recipes for 8 healthy Halloween treats that are adult and kid-friendly! Plus, I’ve compiled tons of strategies that can help us have a healthy Halloween—before, during, and after the holiday.
For many people on Halloween, that is the question. The answer? It’s up to YOU! We’re all different—find what’s right for you and your family.
One of the simplest ways to make Halloween healthier is to just say no to the candy altogether. Some people may shudder at the idea…but it does work for many families. You might choose to skip the trick-or-treating as well, but you don’t have to! If your household already limits candy (or eats none at all), it’s not really the candy that kids will be upset about missing out on. Halloween is a chance for kids to dress up in costumes and have fun with friends! Rather than denying them that experience, come to an agreement as a family about how you’ll handle any candy that’s collected. (There are LOTS of options for donating candy, which we’ll talk about soon). Explain why you’ve chosen to celebrate candy-less, and establish some new Halloween traditions in your family.
Shifting focus from the candy craze to the excitement of Halloween is a healthy strategy that works for many families. But, that doesn’t mean you have to say no to Halloween treats altogether! There are TONS of options for healthy Halloween treats that you can make at home for yourself or your family, and you can even get kids involved in making them. If your family has specific food allergies, is vegan, or is gluten-free, this is a great way to still take part in the Halloween celebrations. Homemade treats are bound to be more nutritious than candy—even if you choose to make sweeter indulgences, like Halloween cupcakes, caramel apples, or homemade candy! YOU are in control of the ingredients, which means less worrying over added sugar and artificial additives like you’ll find in store-bought candies. Check out my 5 DIY candy recipes for some clean-ingredient inspiration!
But, saying no to candy isn’t the only way to have a healthier Halloween! Sometimes, prohibiting ALL candy and treats can make kids want them even more. Yes, candy isn’t healthy, and eating tons of candy all the time can be damaging—for both kids and adults. But, Halloween is just one night. Even if kids eat an obscene amount of candy on Halloween, that one day of overindulgence isn’t going to do lasting damage. It will cause tummy aches, probably, but not serious health problems. The real concern is continuing to eat tons of candy throughout the year, and turning candy-eating into a regular habit.
There’s no one “right” way to do Halloween, because every family is different. YOU have to decide what works best for you! Whether you choose to celebrate with or without candy, these tips can help steer you towards a Healthier Halloween.
Before Halloween: How to Prepare
If You’re Going Trick-Or-Treating:
Agree upon some candy limits ahead of time—BEFORE any candy’s been collected—to prevent any frustration or arguments after trick-or-treating. You might allow kids (or yourself) to eat just a few of their favorite pieces of candy on Halloween night, or you might allow Halloween to be a candy free-for-all. Decide what you feel comfortable with, then explain why those limits are being set. Talk about portion control, balance, and the importance of eating fuel-filled foods like fruits and vegetables. This is also a great strategy year-round!
Have a plan for what to do with candy after trick-or-treating is done. It’s also important to agree upon how much candy will be eaten after Halloween, how frequently it’ll be eaten, and whether or not you’ll be keeping all of the candy you collect. You might make Halloween a “one-day” holiday where kids can eat what they want, but then donate or trade their leftover candy for a toy. You might decide that you’ll indulge on Halloween, but then set a limit of 1 piece of candy per day afterward. Maybe candy-eating is allowed for just the week of Halloween and the week that follows. You decide! By establishing these rules for yourself and your family ahead of time, you won’t be as likely to go overboard and there’s less chance of kids getting upset about their candy being ‘taken away.’
Eat healthy, filling meals on Halloween. If you plan to indulge on Halloween, it might seem like a good idea to “save” your calories until later in the day, but this often results in WORSE overeating later! Especially for kids who are going trick-or-treating (or if you’re going to a Halloween party), it’s important to fill up on a wholesome meal beforehand so they’re less tempted to eat candy constantly throughout the night.
If You’re Handing Out Treats:
Wait to buy candies until just before Halloween! Many people stock up on candy early in October, which can lead to major temptation and pre-Halloween sugar overload. If you’ve got candy in the house, you’re more likely to eat it! Whenever you do buy your candy, put it away somewhere out of sight (and out of reach of the little ones) until the day of trick-or-treating.
Buy candy that won’t tempt you. You don’t have to buy candies that no one will want, but you can choose candies that aren’t your favorites so you’re less likely to eat them.
Stick with fun-size candies and treats. Instead of full-size candy bars, fun-size candies are a simple way to practice portion control. It’s a great way to make Halloween a bit healthier for you and for trick-or-treaters. If you’re making homemade treats, you can make your cookies, brownies, or cupcakes fun-sized, too!
Hand out healthy snacks that you’ll actually eat. Instead of handing out candy, you can hand out non-sugary snacks like pretzels, granola bars, popcorn, or trail mix. By choosing snacks that you like to eat normally, you don’t have to feel guilty about snacking on them or eating the leftovers! (And some other parents will thank you for it.)
Offer non-food Halloween treats! Candy and food aren’t the only things that can be given out to trick-or-treaters. You can also hand out items like kid-friendly glow sticks, bouncy balls, stickers, spider rings, vampire fangs, Play-Doh, playing cards, bubbles, whistles, pencils and crayons, mini notepads—the options are endless! Much of the excitement in Halloween is just collecting goodies, whether it’s candy or not. Discount stores are full of Halloween-themed goodies during October, and taking the emphasis away from candy can be helpful.
During Halloween Festivities
If You Want to Cut Back on Candy:
Save your splurging for candies you really love. There are TONS of candies around on Halloween, and we tend to eat them just because they’re there. Rather than eating every candy in sight, just eat a few of the candies you truly enjoy.
Keep your candy wrappers. It sounds weird, but holding onto your empty candy wrappers can help you stay aware of how much you’ve eaten. You’ll be more likely to stop yourself once you’ve got a big pile of wrappers on the table or a giant wad of wrappers in your pocket!
Keep healthier snacks with you to prevent giving in to your sweet tooth all night. Whether you’re going trick-or-treating as a family or you’re headed to a party, it helps to have a healthier, non-candy option available when the munchies hit you! If you’re at home all day in a house full of tempting Halloween candy, this is a solid strategy.
ENJOY the candy that you do eat! We often eat quickly and mindlessly, never really savoring our food. Put off indulging in candy until you can sit down, take your time, and enjoy the experience. Not only will this make you appreciate the candy more, but you’ll also be paying closer attention to how much candy you’re eating!
For Healthier Trick-or-Treating:
Use smaller trick-or-treating buckets, not pillowcases! A giant pillowcase can fill up with a LOT of candy, but a more reasonable sized bucket helps to limit the candy haul.
Beware of candies with food dye. On Halloween, kids are bound to eat candies with food dye. But, it helps to be aware that many food dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in kids—it’s not just the sugar!
Walk your trick-or-treating route. Rather than driving kids around between houses, keep everyone moving throughout the night!
Let Halloween be a learning moment for kids (and yourself, too). If you’ve decided to let Halloween be a day of indulgence, help kids learn to pay attention to their bodies. Get them to talk about how they’re feeling—if they’re too full or if they have a stomach ache—and talk about how what we eat affects our bodies. Also talk about how Halloween is a special day and candy is a treat meant to be enjoyed on occasion. This is a great way to learn self-regulation and understand our limits. Checking in like this with yourself is important, too!
For Healthier Halloween Parties:
Bring a dish to a party that can balance out the sweets. On Halloween, most partygoers are bound to bring something sweet and sugary, but you don’t have to! Bring a fruit salad or a tray of veggies instead, so you have at least one wholesome option available. You might be surprised by how many other partygoers gobble it up, too!
Get kids in the kitchen. Trick-or-treating is one way to celebrate Halloween, but it’s not the only way. You can make healthy Halloween treats together as a family or with friends! Kids will be excited by the hands-on cooking and getting to eat what they’ve made. This can also be a great option if your family chooses to go candy-less—have kids trade in their candy haul for a chance to make a special Fall-themed treat together!
Focus more on fun, less on food. Halloween is also a great seasonal celebration, not just a candy binge! Dress up and host a costume contest. Carve pumpkins or set up arts-and-crafts booths. Play games like bobbing for apples, musical chairs, or have a pumpkin hunt. Have fun and get everyone moving!
After Halloween: What to Do With Halloween Candy
Set limits. Like we’ve talked about, going candy crazy on Halloween isn’t going to do serious damage—it’s how we eat each day that matters. Establish a limit that you feel good about, whether it’s one small piece of candy per day or one piece of candy per week. Ideally, talk about those limits before the candy has been collected!
Make candy a post-meal treat. Serve a healthy meal before offering kids (or yourself) a piece of candy, so they fill up on nutritious, fuel-filled foods first. This is also helpful to get kids to see candy and sweets as an occasional treat that follows a meal, rather than a random snack to be had anytime. Another great strategy is to ask kids (or yourself) to drink a glass of water with each piece of candy!
Set the example for kids. By practicing moderation with your candy eating, you can be a role model for kids learning healthy balance.
Make It Hard to Get:
Hide leftover Halloween candy out of sight! Allow kids to choose a few favorite Halloween candies at the end of the night, then store the rest in a place they won’t find it. This way, kids have to ask for candy if they want it, or they might even forget that it’s there. This will also help prevent you from overdoing it on the candy. Out of sight, out of mind! You can, of course, dip into the stash throughout the year when someone (or you) wants a sweet treat.
Freeze all of the candy. That way, you’ll have to wait for each piece of candy to thaw before eating it! A simple way to slow yourself down, rather than eat your way through the bag mindlessly.
Get Rid of It:
Set a small window for candy-eating. It can be just Halloween night, a few days, or a few weeks, but commit to getting candy out of the house after that time frame. Take it in to work, or donate it! (More on that momentarily.)
After trick-or-treating, get kids to choose their favorites. Let them spread their candy out on the floor and make 2 piles: what they want to keep, and what they don’t. Whatever they don’t want to keep, you can donate! This can be a great teaching moment, showing kids that “more” is not always better and giving can be just as fun as getting.
Do the ol’ switch-er-oo. Get kids to exchange their candies for something else, like a new toy or a prize. Some parents tell their kids about “the Switch Witch,” who will come bring them a present in exchange for their candy! But, it’s important to talk to kids about this option before Halloween. If you make the exchange their choice, rather than forced, it will encourage greater responsibility and self-control.
Halloween Candy Donation Options
There are TONS of options for where you can donate extra Halloween candy! Ask around in your local area—often, senior citizens homes, food pantries, children’s hospitals, and even dentists offices will accept candy donations. Some dentists’ offices even offer prizes, coupons, or will pay $1 per pound of candy exchanged. There are also a few specific programs listed here that will accept your candy and send it to troops overseas:
Operation Gratitude—an organization that has been sending care packages to troops for almost 15 years, and coordinates Halloween candy collections & donations each year. You can find more information on their website.
In partnership with a veteran’s organization each year, dentists’ offices across the U.S. hostHalloween Candy Buyback. Head to the website to find participating organizations in your local area.
Soldiers’ Angels is another organization dedicated to supporting deployed military, wounded soldiers, and veterans. Check out the website for info on their yearly Treats for Troops collection.
You can also donate Halloween candy through Operation Shoebox, an organization which ships care packages to troops overseas year-round.
I hope some of these tips have been helpful for you! Remember, Halloween is just one day out of the year. What we eat on one day is far less important than what we eat most days throughout the year. Have a happy, safe, and healthier Halloween!