Top Tips for a Healthier Halloween

By Maeve O'Keeffe Nutrition News   |   26th Oct 2022

Halloween does not have to be frightfully unhealthy, here are some tips to make trick-or-treating a little healthier.

Halloween is just around the corner, and while the little ones plan their scary costumes for trick-or-treating, there is some planning you can do to make the celebration a small bit healthier this year, without ruining any of the fun or festivity.

1. Fill up on a hearty meal beforehand. Having a nourishing dinner before heading out trick-or-treating can prevent snacking on too many unhealthy treats later in the evening. You could even try to have a Halloween-themed dinner so it feels fun – carving scary faces into stuffed peppers or decorating homemade pizzas with a spooky design will fuel littles ones up for a busy evening. For heart healthy dinner ideas, have a look at our recipes here.

2. Get active by walking from house to house. Wrap up the kids with body warmers or leggings beneath their costumes, grab plenty of flashlights, high-vis jackets and warm coats, and take the kids around the neighbourhood for trick-or-treating. Getting out for a walk is a nice way to boost physical activity, and will add to the excitement of the evening, but remember to stay safe. Dr Ciara Martin, National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead for Children and Young People, HSE, and Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, says: “We want children and young people to have fun but stay safe this Halloween. This starts by thinking about the possible risks – the mychild.ie section of the HSE website has helpful information and is worth a look.” If you’re staying in the little ones, you could always play a fun, active Halloween game, like musical statues with a Halloween playlist.

“ We want children and young people to have fun but stay safe this Halloween."

Dr Ciara Martin, National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead for Children and Young People, HSE, and Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine

3. Including fruit as part of some traditional Halloween games is a nice way of encouraging kids to boost their fruit intake, without any drama. Bobbing for apples is a classic game, and decorating the skins of mandarin oranges to look like carved pumpkins is another fun activity to try. There are lots of ideas online, like making ghosts out of bananas or witches’ fingers from carrot or celery sticks, or even as simple as adding some green food colouring to unsalted popcorn for a spook-tacular snack.

4. If you’re taking the little ones out trick-or-treating, agree on a plan for how much they can take from each house, and what they will do with their goodies afterwards. Allow them to enjoy a certain number of treats on Monday night, and then encourage them to ration out the rest of the treats throughout November. Setting a daily treat allowance helps children enjoy their sweets in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Leftover sweets can even be saved for Advent calendars or gingerbread decorations in December.

5. Bring a small bag with your child as they head out trick-or-treating. Large buckets and shopping bags take much longer to fill, so by bringing a small bag, you can limit how many sweets your child takes home, while also giving them the satisfaction of collecting “a whole bag full of treats.”

“Although it is unhealthy to have lots of junk food high in sugar and saturated fats every night of the week, allowing your child some sweets on Halloween is fine,”

Orna O'Brien, Registered Dietician, Irish Heart Foundation

6. If you’re expecting trick-or-treating visitors to your house, there are some small ways you can reduce children’s treat intake too. Instead of offering self-service, you could give children a choice between two options, or have a lucky dip where each child gets one turn fishing for sweets. Make sure to buy fun-sized treats too, as larger sizes are unnecessary. You could even replace jellies and crisps with some non-edible treats, like Halloween stickers, bubble wands, temporary tattoos, and colouring pencils. These items are all the more exciting as they are more unique than typical goodies.

7. Remember that Halloween is only one night of the year. “Although it is unhealthy to have lots of junk food high in sugar and saturated fats every night of the week, allowing your child some sweets on Halloween is fine,” according to Orna O’Brien, Registered Dietician with the Irish Heart Foundation. Trying to ban sweet things on Halloween would prove close to impossible, so instead use it as an opportunity for your child to have fun and make memories, while practicing healthy eating habits during the rest of the year as much as possible.

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