Friday, October 01, 2010

A Healthier Halloween

It's the end of September, and all the Halloween decorations are out at the stores. Big boxes of candy are beckoning on the shelves, furry spiders are hanging from the ceilings, and kids are already plotting their neighborhood domination to see who can score the most candy.

This post isn't going to be about not letting your kids have candy for Halloween, or telling you to hand out celery sticks to the trick or treaters. I don't roll that way. Let them have their fun and their candy. Wasn't the best part of Halloween sorting out your haul, putting the candy into neat piles, and counting out the colors of the Smarties when you ate them?

Let's face it; Halloween IS about candy. There is no point in fighting it. The thing is, there are ways to minimize the candy overload just a bit and teach your child moderation at the same time. How do you do that?

Get in on the party

Does your kid's class do a Halloween party? Now is the time to chat it up with the teacher. Volunteer to help with organization. The BEST Halloween party I ever saw in an elementary school was when the teacher asked ONE parent to bring a dessert-cupcakes, cookies, or something fun, and everyone else was assigned something healthy. There were platters of veggies and dip, fruit, and cheese and crackers. The kids noshed on healthy stuff for the party, and then were allowed one treat at the end. They were happy, the food was good, and it wasn't a big free for all sugar fest. Yay!

The worst party was one Jake attended in elementary school where the teacher allowed anything and everything. The kids were allowed to eat as much junk as they wanted, and for the first time ever, Jake didn't want dinner (ate too many treats at school) and then didn't even touch his Halloween candy. In fact, he was ill that evening. When I asked what was at the class party, it was all junk food.

Fill them up with the good stuff

You've heard it before I'm sure, but make sure to fill the kids up dinner before they hit the road for candy. They'll be less likely to just fill up on sugar, that way. Keep dinner simple and something that they love to eat, because they will just be too excited to eat much. Think about taking a water bottle with you to keep them hydrated, too.

Enlist a 'helper'

If you have little ones, try introducing the Great Pumpkin (or the Halloween Witch, as we called him/her). Jake was allowed to keep some candy, and then could put the rest out on the back porch, and the "Witch" would magically turn his candy into a toy. Not a cheap dollar store toy, but usually a decent toy that he would really like. This was a huge incentive to get rid of a lot of the junky candy that he didn't need, without the fuss. Plus it was loads of fun and he had a tangible item to play with, instead of candy that he didn't need. We didn't eat the candy we convinced him to trade, but instead tossed it back into our bowl and gave it away or just threw it out.

You CAN throw away candy. It's okay. There is no candy police.

Drag out the fun

Holidays are so much fun with little kids, and you can incorporate Halloween or fall themes into your food easily. Try visiting a pumpkin patch, a cranberry farm, or an apple orchard. Show them where their food comes from, and then pick up some apples to make applesauce. Try making cranberry sauce, muffins, or even apple crumble. Get them involved and make it less about the mini chocolate bars, and more about the farm!

There will be lots of great recipes that I'll be sharing from the days when Jake was little and Halloween was a huge deal around this place so stick around! To get us started, look at these fantastic links I found:

-Snack O'lantern
-Cheesy Fingers
-Goblin Grins
-Frozen Frog Eggs
-pumpkin roll ups
-spiderweb eggs
-mashed boo-tatoes
-Bats and Cobwebs
-brownie bits

What are YOUR tips for a healthy Halloween?

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