Fuel them up before they go trick-or-treating.
Before they head out the door, try to get them to relax (we know this isn’t easy!) and sit down to dinner, or, at least, a fruit plate and a cup of yogurt. That way, their appetites for the rest of the evening will be curbed, somewhat. (Maybe they’ll be happy with five or six little chocolates, not 16.)2
It’s important to allow some junk. “When our son Jordan was a child, we never prohibited anything,” says Dr. William McCarthy of the UCLA School of Public Health and member of the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board. “That way, Jordan never got the impression that things like candy and cookies were precious.”3
Meter it out.
On Halloween night, Jordan was allowed to select a few candies, then mom and dad put the bag in the pantry, and after a few days, Jordan forgot about it. “He’d had his treats,” remembers Dr. McCarthy, “and then he was on to other things.”
If your kids haven’t forgotten about their stash in the pantry, dole out one or two treats at a time, and always in combination with a healthy snack or meal. When the excitement over the candy has waned (and before you start digging into them), throw them away or take them to a homeless shelter.4
“On Halloween night, don’t think that the only treats are packed with sugar and fat,” suggests Pritikin’s Director of Nutrition, Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD. Trick or treaters clamor for non-food goodies, too. Look in the party aisle of your favorite discount store for treats like glow stick necklaces (your little neighborhood princesses will love you!), spider rings, stickers, decorative pencils, stamps, notepads, erasers, balloons, play tattoos, game cards, and more.
Better yet, buy treats that encourage kids to be physically active, like little bouncy balls, Frisbees, jump ropes, hacky sacks, and sidewalk chalk for drawing hopscotch or foursquare games.5
Channel your inner Martha Stewart.
Set up on your front lawn arts-and-crafts activities like face painting and pumpkin decorating. Who knows? The wee ones may end up liking your home more than anything else on Halloween night.6
Plan a party that’s focused more on fun and less on food.
Get the kids (and grownups) up and moving with party activities. Set up dunking for apples, a costume/dance contest, a pumpkin hunt (hide miniature pumpkins throughout the yard), pinning a heart on a scarecrow, or musical chairs. (Instead of chairs, use big pumpkins.)
And, of course, they never tire of running from the big bad boogie man (you dressed up in a creepy costume) in a game of Halloween hide and seek. Lots of calories burned. Lots of fun!7
Stock up on sweet and nutritious.
The rest of the year, continue to think outside the candy aisle for treats that are sweet and nutritious. Instead of gummy fruit snacks (the name sounds healthy but they’re really just candy packed with sugar), make popcorn trail mix for the kids. Fill a bowl with low-fat, microwave popcorn and add nuts and dried fruit – only, of course, the fruit varieties your kids like. Let them experiment beforehand. Nowadays, there are so many lip-smacking flavors to choose from, like kiwis, apple slices, mango slices, cranraisins, cherries, and blueberries.8
Make fruit fun.
When you can, make fruit fun. How about a Fruit Parfait? In a pretty parfait glass, simply layer your child’s favorite fruit with fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt. Then top with a strawberry.
Or surprise them with Grape Freezes. Wash seedless grapes and pat dry. Place them in the freezer and chill until hard. Toss them in little airtight containers. As a snack, they’re cold, sweet, and crunchy, just like a Popsicle. For school, just put one of the containers in your child’s lunch box right before he or she walks out the door. Come lunchtime, they’ll be thawed, but probably still nice and cold.9
Lighten your load.
Stock up on fruit cups packed in 100% fruit juice or water with easy-to-open lids. That way, when you’re out of fresh fruit, you aren’t feeling guilty or charging out the door for yet another shopping trip. Good brand choices include Dole, Nutradiet, Del Monte, Wyman’s, Native Forest, and many store brands.10
Make healthy Halloween treats together.
Every summer in the Pritikin Family Program, kids love the hands-on cooking classes and, afterwards, eating their own creations. Set up shop in your own kitchen, and with the kids as sous chefs, create healthy tasty food at Halloween and year-round, like Pritikin Chef Anthony’s Corn Bread.