It's that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the temperatures are dropping, and the candy is stocked on every aisle... Halloween is here! Every year, Americans rush to the store and stock up on approximately 600 million pounds of candy, and parents find themselves in a dilemma: Should they let their kids go wild for the night or try to incorporate healthier treats and habits into their tradition? For some, this is a no-brainer, but for the parents responsible for the 13.7 million children and adolescents (ages 2-19) affected by obesity, it can feel like there is no correct solution. This year, we have some answers that will help alleviate parents’ concerns.
Below, learn more about moderating your child's sugar intake and discover some healthy and exciting alternatives you can pass out from your home on Halloween night.
How to Prepare for a Healthy and Happy Halloween
Halloween is the one night each year where kids get to socialize, dress up, and snag some of their favorite treats. Often, parents don't want to be "the bad guy" or make their child feel singled out by implementing health guidelines on their night of fun. Dr. Nancy Sherwood from the University of Minnesota says parents can avoid that by practicing healthy habits year-round. She believes, "It's not just what you say, it's what you do, and what you serve." Implementing healthy habits in your home can range from serving more nutritious, balanced meals to limiting technology time and encouraging physical activities. Doing all of this can lead to your child subconsciously setting personal health guidelines on Halloween night and can make going back to healthy habits after Halloween easier.
Another way to ensure a safe and enjoyable Halloween is by wearing a mask. Health officials all over agree: Wearing a mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19. Try sitting down as a family to decorate face masks to match your Halloween costumes.
Tips and Tricks
The topic of weight has always been a touchy and stigmatized subject. Many don't know how to approach it and often feel uncomfortable or rude when bringing it up. When it comes to communicating this subject with children, parents fear causing them to feel self-conscious and ultimately leaving a lasting impression with negative consequences. Ken Haller, MD, from Saint Louis University says there are many ways to approach this topic and set clear guidelines without ruining the fun.
Ways to communicate and set health guidelines with your children are as follows:
- Have an open discussion. Ask how they feel, then listen. Discuss what they think would be good ways to practice healthy habits on Halloween. Then develop your candy plan together.
- Communicate in a positive, playful, and upbeat way. Conversations about weight can be stiff and feel a tad shameful, so it's important to keep things light and give your child positive reassurance.
- Allow your child to eat a few pieces on Halloween night as a reward, then go through their sugary treasure and portion the rest out. Store a few pieces in a ziplock bag and allow them to be eaten throughout the week; the rest can be frozen and pulled out as you see fit.
- Use the candy to teach a lesson on sharing. When your child has friends over, motivate them to share.
- Encourage healthy dental hygiene by rewarding your child with a new toothbrush set that features their favorite character or color. This will make brushing their teeth an exciting thing to do after candy.
At the end of the day, you are the parent and it's your job to decide what your child can and cannot do. Don't be afraid to put your foot down if it's for the best.
Get Creative With Your Treats
If you're passing out the treats this year, switch out sugary treats with some awesome alternatives that keep kids and parents happy. Besides, no one said healthy had to be boring!
Check out these pantry treats that come prepackaged, making them perfect for handing out:
- Juice boxes
- Plain cookies
- Cereal bars
- Sugar-free gum
If you want to cut out treats entirely, try handing out small treasures:
- Halloween-themed pencils
- Small rubber balls
- Halloween toys/figurines
- Waxed lips or vampire's teeth
- Glow sticks
- Key chains
- Small games
- Coloring books and crayons
Ultimately, kids like the excitement of going door-to-door and welling, "Trick-or-Treat!" Whatever you toss in their bags is a treasure in their eyes...well, maybe avoid tossing in fruits and veggies.
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