Halloween: Healthy Trick or Treating

Halloween is my husband and oldest daughter’s favorite holiday, so it is celebrated every year with a very large haunted walk and scavenger hunt with dozens of children between the ages of 7-11 years descending on our home. As a dietitian, in good conscience, I can’t have a night of complete dietary ruin so I have learned to build fun activities and healthy foods into the night without over running the evening with high fat, sugar, and calorie foods and treats. Here are a few of my fun, but healthy go-to Halloween ideas:

  • Before we start anything, I provide a healthy meal to the kids so they are not as hungry and are not reaching for as many of their treats from the scavenger hunt. This year, I am serving homemade low-fat pulled pork sandwiches and low-fat uncured turkey hot dogs on whole grain buns, homemade tomato soup (with floating eyeballs of course), breadstick snakes, whole grain crackers and low-fat cheeses, a veggie tray, and a caramel apple bar where the kids will use sliced apples on a stick so that the caramel dip will be perfectly portioned. I will have a few other appetizer-type snacks, but they will be small and portioned appropriately.  I also serve 100 percent juice in juice boxes (they will be wrapped like mummies), milk, water bottles and a healthy Halloween fruit punch for drinks.
  • Provide physical activities during the party. We have a scavenger hunt for the kids to participate in this year where they will be running/walking all over six acres in the dark. If you don’t have that much space in your yard, then include the neighbor’s yard or go to a park. We also end the night with a dance party with black lights, fog and the kids’ favorite creepy Halloween music! If the kids are busy, then they are not coming back for snacks and they are also being physically active!
  • Make the healthy food fun and creepy. This year, I am creating a veggie plate in the shape of a monster with a carved pumpkin that will be spewing low-fat veggie dip from his mouth.
  • Don’t serve dessert. The kids will be picking up small treats throughout the scavenger hunt so their dessert is provided; I don’t add cookies, cakes, and pies to the buffet table. Instead I use other foods to create a Halloween inspired buffet.
  • Not all treats on the scavenger hunt are candy. There will be candy because moderation is a good lesson for anyone, but we will also have some non-candy treats such as goldfish crackers, glow sticks, stickers, tattoos, Halloween inspired toys, and pretzels to name a few.

Our Halloween party is not in lieu of trick-or-treating, so my kids will be running out the next day with friends to grab as many treats as they possibly can, but I make a deal with them that for the next two weeks they can pick one small item from their baskets one time each day. They get the autonomy to decide what and when and then I give them the opportunity to purchase the rest of their basket of candy for something that they have been wanting (i.e., iTunes gift cards, iPad apps, DVDs, books) so that I am teaching moderation, but also not having the fight until Christmas on the candy still left in the Halloween basket. Hope you all have a Happy Halloween!