Halloween is one holiday that should be extra fun for both kids and adults. What’s not to like about dressing up in different characters, running around the vicinity with friends and socializing with other kids and neighbors. Unfortunately, to many kids and parents Halloween results in overeating and collecting and stashing on as much candy as possible. While childhood obesity and related health problems are on the rise not only in the USA but in many developed countries around the world, Halloween should be promoted with more health-consciousness.
There are several ways both parents and neighbors can establish healthy habits for trick or treaters without compromising the fun. And we encourage members of residential communities to talk to each other how they can help raise healthier children and teach them to understand what is good for them and what is not. Halloween is a perfect time to educate children about moderation in eating and healthy choices.
Green Halloween tips for parents:
- don’t let your kids leave the house with an empty stomach, that will only encourage them to overindulge on candy and unhealthy snacks;
- give each child a bag relative to their size and age, so they don’t feel like they need to fill it up completely.
Green Halloween tips for neighbors:
1. replace sugary treats with healthier alternatives made with honey or natural juices; and by creating simple packets with products, such as :
- dried fruits and nuts
- cereal bars
- chocolate or yogurt covered raisins and nuts
- small boxes of 100% juice
- oatmeal cookies with fruit
- decorated honey cookies
- small fruity cupcakes (pumpkin, apple)
- graham cracker sandwiches with low-fat cheese
2. include non-eatable, inexpensive yet useful treats, such as:
- fun Halloween hats, glasses or fake teeth
- color pencils or crayons
- glow sticks
- funny book marks
- jump rope
- small bouncy ball
Kids should stay active as much as possible, especially on a day they tend to eat more. So encouraging activity while trick or treating will help them burn the excessive calories. And treats like jumping rope or bouncy ball will keep them on the go.
You can also make your own healthier Halloween treats, which will be unique and will save you money too.
And especially if you are hosting a Halloween party, make it fun and get kids engaged in preparing some of their favorite treats. Let them decorate their own cookies with orange colored frosting, chocolate chips, raisins or dried fruit or nuts. Have them help you carve a pumpkin and decorate it or make a contest for the best painted Halloween pumpkin.
The following favorite Halloween recipes can be modified according to your healthy preferences:
- Halloween Cookies: Add few drops of orange food color into a cookie dough, then cut out pumpkin shapes and bake until ready.
- Witches’ Smiles: Core red apple and slice it into long moon-like slices about ½ ″ wide; keep the skin on. Spread some peanut butter on one side of the apple slice and place on top of the second slice to appear lie lips of a mouth. Then place raisins or small nuts (such as hazelnuts or walnut pieces) between the red “lips” so it looks like “decayed teeth.” Sprinkle area without the skin with orange or lemon juice to keep it from turning brown.
- Halloween Popcorn: Popcorn is a healthy snack when popped without any added fat or sugar, with plenty of dietary fiber. To reduce the amount of candy, you can mix popcorn with raisins, nuts or other dried fruit (either raw or chocolate-covered) or your choice of small candy such as M & M’s, jelly beans or gummy worms. You can serve this mix in a party bowl or package in small Ziploc bags for each child individually.
- Bony Fingers: Pour popcorn into clear latex gloves, then tie the ends with orange and black ribbons.
- Witches’ Brew: Pour pure orange or apple juice into plastic cups and top with a small scoop of orange sherbet, frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream. You can also add a few drops of green food coloring into a cup of milk and top with a small scoop of lime sherbet or frozen yogurt.
Keep it green
Halloween should not be about wasting, but all those treats usually come in individual packaging that ends up in the trash. Also costumes can represent both big expense and a big waste, especially for young children who outgrow them really fast. So what’s the solution?
- Recycle all paper, plastic, cardboard wrappings according to your local recycling programs, and teach your children about recycling from early on: here are few useful tips;
- Reuse old costumes: with a little imagination and creativity you can transform an old costume into a completely different one;
- Avoid buying one-time toys that kids will put or throw away once Halloween is over, instead think outside the box and get simple and inexpensive giveaways they can always use, such as color pencils or crayons, coloring books, book marks, small bouncy ball or other.
- For Halloween parties: write the name of each child on plastic cups and plates so kids don’t use multiple cups and plates during the party, and minimize waste.
Take this opportunity to show your own kids as well as trick & treaters that healthy treats can taste good and be as much fun as the common Halloween treats. You will introduce them to good snacking habits and make them enjoy this great festivity in a healthy way.
Resources: Clemson University Cooperative Extension