Is it possible to have a healthy Halloween? With a little bit of discipline and planning, it can be. Here are some healthy Halloween nutrition tips for adults and children to get you through the holiday without sabotaging your diet.
Healthy swaps for the parents
First things first, you should always plan ahead: eat a healthy, well-balanced meal before going out or taking the kids trick-or-treating to avoid overconsumption. By eating a healthy meal, you may be less likely to make bad decisions.
Don’t starve yourself during the day to make up for the calories you’ll consume in candy that evening. The hungrier you are, the more likely you are to overindulge.
When you’re out at Halloween parties or snacking while taking the kids trick-or-treating, opt for healthier treats like trail mix, popcorn, dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa), roasted nuts or granola bars.
Keep these guidelines in mind:
- Items like popcorn and granola bars are whole grains, which are full of fiber and B vitamins.
- Be careful of the sugar content in some granola bars and opt for light popcorn versus caramel or buttery versions.
- Trail mix, roasted nuts and dark chocolate contain heart-healthy fats and antioxidants to help lower our LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.
- Read food labels and avoid trans fats. Trans fats are man-made fats that are solid at room temperature and are found in candies and other processed foods. Trans fats have been found to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Also, make sure to look for candies with less than 2-3 grams of saturated fats.
- Buy single-serving packages to help control portions and save on calories.
- Opt for hard candies — they are longer lasting and tend to have fewer calories.
- Roast pumpkin seeds after carving your pumpkin for a heart-healthy, festive (and tasty) snack.
- If planning a Halloween party, try to make healthier hors d’oeuvres, such as vegetable or fruit trays, yogurt dips, guacamole, etc.
- Make sure to take any leftover candy to your office or neighbors to keep yourself from eating it. If your coworker brings their leftover candy, try chewing gum or eating a mint to help resist the urge. You can also donate the leftover candy to local food pantries or other charities.
Healthy swaps for the kids
Talk with your kids prior to taking them trick-or-treating to discuss what a reasonable amount of candy would be to eat once you get home.
- As mentioned above, make sure to eat a healthy dinner or give them a healthy snack before trick-or-treating, like a peanut butter sandwich or fruit.
- Allow the kids to indulge a little on Halloween night, but limit their candy the rest of the week. Or, hide the candy and give them some only when they ask for it (out of sight, out of mind).
- Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks or fruit juice. A lot of these items have added sugars — make sure to read the food labels for sugar content, as well as ingredient lists for added, hidden sugars.
- Use some of their favorite candy to make a healthy, homemade trail mix, healthy cereal and nuts.
Related: 10 Halloween safety tips
Healthy nutrition is important but Halloween is only one night. So have fun, be safe and remember it is OK to indulge on special occasions, as long as you try to be mindful of your eating the rest of the year.
This post was written by Erin Carroll RD, LDI, a Registered Dietitian at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital and the Baylor Tom Landry Health and Wellness Center.