By Leigh-Ann Silber RD (SA), Daily Dietitian Registered dietitian
Over the past few years, the original American celebration seems to have enticed our South African kids. Personally, I don’t ever remember celebrating it. But, I now look forward to dressing up the kids and even started stocking up on sweets to give “trick-or-treaters” that came to visit us (I tried handing out carrot sticks one year, these of course where hidden by my much embarrassed husband!).
As a mom and a dietitian with a special interest in children’s nutrition, I too am faced with the annual drama of sugar rushes and excess sweet intake that this holiday brings. But it really doesn’t have to be so bad, especially if you turn your focus on the fun of the day and not the sweets! Is indulging in the sweets the reason kids love Halloween? Or is it more about dressing up in funny or scary costumes, decorating, parties and socializing that make the day? My view is that kids love having fun and the treats and sweets are simply a bonus.
I have an American colleague that tried to prove this point:
She once used her neighborhood trick-or-treaters as a science project. In addition to offering a bowl of the smaller “fun-sized” sweets, she also offered a bowl filled with items such as stickers, pencils, colourful shoelaces, sugar free gum, bubbles, small packs of nuts, trail mix and lower sugar cereal bars. She asked the trick-or-treaters to choose one item from each bowl and kept a record of how the kids responded and how many actually took something from the non-sweet bowl. Her first trick-or-treater of the evening was so excited about the bubbles, he almost forgot to take sweets. He actually ran from my house screaming “I got bubbles!” By the end of the evening, 43 total kids had visited her house. All of them made a selection from both bowls. The young children were especially thrilled by the non-sweet “treats!
Below are a few more tricks you can try to make Halloween an opportunity to encourage healthy habits, one that incorporates the eating of sweets.
- Make sure kids eat a balanced dinner/early meal prior to trick-or-treating. Eating sweets instead of a meal often results in upset tummies and crabby moods. Your child may be more interested in eating if you cook one if their best dishes in your “cauldron” and call it Witch’s Brew.
- Don’t send kids out trick-or-treating with a big bag! Instead, use a smaller bag or bucket. If kids can’t lift their bag at the end of the night, that’s a sign they have too many sweets.
- “Halloween sweets” presents a learning opportunity. Work toward having your child be able to manage his own stash. When he comes home from trick or treating, let him lay out his stash, gloat over it, sort it and choose from 2–3 sweets for that evening. Let him do the same the next day. Then have him put it away and relegate it to meal and snack-time: a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert and as well as for snack time.
- It has also been my experience that the kids get bored and actually forget about the sweets after a few days. However, if you make a big issue over the sweets and hide them and take away the fun, it just drives them to over indulge in them!
Some Healthy Halloween Snacks
There are some fantastic healthy Halloween cookie cutters available at many retail stores. Cut out healthy sandwiches, pieces of fruit or even make low GI biscuits, with these cookie cutters. Let your kids help you make the meals/snacks. Also let the kids help make up scary names for vegetables and meals. That way they can fill up on healthy meals and snacks and it shows them that Halloween is about the fun and not about the sweets.
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