Halloween is here! My favorite part about this season is all the creativity that comes with the decorations and the costumes. And yes – who doesn’t love a good sweet and treat now and again. The challenge with all the candy can be how much of it we eat and how often. So to keep us all on track, I compiled 35 healthy Halloween tips from nutrition professionals. These awesome dietitians know what they’re talking about and they have some fabulous advice to keep us happy and nourished. Let the trick or treating begin.
As a dietitian and mom of a kid with a peanut allergy we choose to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. Instead of passing out candy we give out glow necklaces, glow rings or other small toys that are safe for little kids. The kids love it, the parents are happy to see less candy and it takes a little emphasis off the treat having to be candy. Plus, it’s fun to paint a pumpkin teal and add it to your usual line up of Halloween decorations!
Here’s the link to join the Teal Pumpkin Project.
Amy Baertschi, MS, RDN, Green Eyed Nutrition LLC
Be that parent who brings a bowl of grapes or a tray of veggies to the Halloween party to balance out the sweets! (or if not a parent, offer to bring one anyway…)
Faye Berger Mitchell, RDN, LDN, Eat for Pleasure – Move for Fun
Savor every bite, guilt free! Being afraid or trying to avoid Halloween candy would be no fun and could potentially lead to a binge later. Instead, choose a piece of candy you truly love and enjoy it! This does not mean popping some candy into your mouth quickly but instead slowly eat the candy and be fully present in that moment. Push away any feelings of guilt and be blissfully aware of all the wonderful sensations you’re experiencing! Enjoy!
Kristine Berube, RDN, LDN, A blissful balance of healthy and sweet
I give out nonfood treats at Halloween that kids like such as pencils, small toys, wax teeth, crayons, holiday themed rings, small toothbrushes, etc. When you put a variety in a big festive bowl and let them pick their favorite treat it is even better! I used to give out healthy snacks like raisins or small microwave popcorn packs but that is not as popular as these fun items!
Kathy Birkett, RDN, LD, Nutrition for the Health of It
FILL UP before Trick or Treating. Our family tradition was cooking up a big bowl of beef vegetable soup and inviting the neighbors over before the trick or treating begins! The trick is to fill up instead of out on Halloween. And remember hot foods make you feel full faster!
Chere Bork, MS, RDN, Unstoppable Confidence – live ridiculously happy and healthy ….ever after
Dentists agree, it is better to make the candy eating season a short one, even if intake during that time is high. Give kids 2 weeks of self-monitored intake and then pitch the rest. When choosing candy to pitch, consider tossing candies with food dye. Dye can ramp up the hyperactivity even more than sugar. Chocolate may be better than fruity candies and snacks.
Christa Byrd, MA, RDN, FCP, CLC, Integrative Nutrition Dietitian
My kids enjoy their candy, using the same kid-empowered approach to desserts we always use. For example, instead of setting strict limits with them, we have open discussions where we talk about proportion, the importance of balancing out our choices with fruits and vegetables, and how our bodies feel after eating certain foods. This approach doesn’t work overnight, but overtime, kids will learn how to self-regulate their choices (even sweets). Then, usually after a few days, the candy magically disappears to a high cupboard and the kids forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind!
Laura Chalela Hoover, MPH, RDN, Healthier, happier mealtimes can be yours
Let them eat cake! (or ahem, candy, in this instance.) Allow your kids to enjoy as many treats as they would like on the holiday itself, while helping them learn to pay attention to their body’s signals. Are they feeling very full? Does their tummy hurt from eating too many sweets? This will be a great lesson with natural consequences to help them recognize the pros and cons of overeating. Then on Day Two, have them pick a couple of small pieces or one bigger one, to add to their dinner plate and enjoy with the meal. This way you are allowing independence and the freedom to be a kid during the free for all of Halloween, and then returning to structure and moderation once it passes.
Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN, Writer, Editor, Educator. Owner of Eat. Grow. Live.
My husband and I don’t have kids, so I buy treats to give out that I would normally buy as a snack anyway to keep around our house. Kids coming to my house can expect to receive individual snack packs of goldfish, peanut butter snack crackers, pretzels, granola bars, or trail mix. The amount of trick or treaters who stop by can vary, so I don’t feel guilty having leftovers, and we don’t feel tempted for extra snacking because they’re commonly found in our house anyway. I figure most kids are getting their fill of candy anyway from the other houses, so I like to be different giving a healthy snack without being “The Raisin House”.
Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, Nutrition Nuptials: A Prenup for Your Body & Soul
This year we are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project since we have a number of friends whose kids have food allergies. So in addition to having a cute teal colored pumpkin on our porch we’ll be passing out stickers, Halloween rings, erasers, and glow sticks for the bigger kids. It definitely makes it less tempting to eat Halloween candy when there isn’t any in the house.
Lara Felton, MBA, RDN, owner of RDelish
When Trick or Treaters come by your house, have a bowl of fun party favors instead of candy bought at a dollar store or party store. Items like small light up rings, mini flashlights, glow sticks, and fun stickers are a great way to serve up Halloween without all the sugar loaded candy.
Emma Fogt, MBA, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, Expert Nutrition for Professional, Corporate and Personal Success!™
Buy the types of candy that don’t tempt you. For example, if candy corn doesn’t appeal to you, buy those mini bags for the trick or treaters.
Tanya Freirich, MS, RD, CDN
With Halloween candy everywhere it can be easy to mindlessly eat it throughout the day. You know, a mini candy bar here, a few candy corns there. Rather than deprive yourself, find a way to distract yourself so that you can delay eating it until you can sit down & enjoy it slowly.
Dina Garcia, RDN, LDN, Professional support from someone who’s been there
To keep me from diving into sugar binge, I freeze the entire bag of candy. That way if I want one, I have to wait until it thaws a little before eating it. It automatically forces me to slow down and really enjoy that piece of candy! It keeps me from mindlessly plowing through because I have to wait EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Shannon Gilmore, MS, RDN
Let yourself pick one treat a day and enjoy it as a dessert or snack. If you aren’t active already, now is the time to start! Be sure children are getting at least 1 hour of physical activity a day and adults are getting at least 30 minutes a day. Be sure it is an activity you enjoy.
Joey Gochnour, BS, MEd, RDN, LD, NASM-CPT, owner of Nutrition and Fitness Professional, LLC
I always tell people to treat the day like any other and eat your normal meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Saving up for a candy splurge at the end of the day won’t do you any good. A sugar rush will cause you to crash shortly after, and where’s the fun in that? Savor and enjoy 2-3 favorite pieces of candy and then call it quits.
Erinn Gregory, RDN, FoodBalance LLC: Real Nutrition for Real Life
My Halloween tip is to enjoy a protein and fiber rich snack before heading out to trick-or-treat. This will curb your hunger and give you energy to make the rounds without constantly dipping into the candy bag. Once home, choose a few pieces that you REALLY love and savor them. Own it and enjoy it.
Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Founder of Nutrition Starring You
The past two years I have offered both Annie’s fruit snacks and glow bracelets. I was apprehensive the first year but the kids LOVE seeing the glowing bracelets in our big treat bowl when they come to the door. It mixes it up giving them something they enjoy without even more candy that they’re getting in excess.
Kelly Jones, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, Kelly Jones Performance Nutrition
Eat Your Pleasers, Skip Your Teasers. Wouldn’t it be great if every adult could learn to “spend” their calorie budget on only those foods they love? Let’s teach them this when they’re young! Teach your kids to separate the “Pleasers” (the candies they really love) from the “Teasers” (the ones they eat just because they’re there. Then give away or throw away the teasers.
Dr. Jo® Lichten, PhD, RDN, inspiring busy people to stay healthy, sane & productive
Set up a small, simple maze or obstacle course in your yard for kids to race through to “earn” treats – it will get their heart rates up and maybe even inspire similar play at home.
Jamie M. Marchetti, MS, RDN, LD, Clinical Dietitian, Nutrition & Wellness Blogger, and Freelance Writer
To make Halloween healthy and fun, I always try to combine fruit with minimal candy. This way kids will still feel like they are getting a treat. The twist is that they also get vitamins, minerals, powerful antioxidants, and fiber. Some creative ideas include ghost bananas (bananas cut in half with mini chocolate chips for eyes), or ghost strawberries (white chocolate covered strawberries with mini-chocolate chips for eyes) or small clementines can be pealed and placed with a small piece of green licorice rope for a stem. If you prefer to omit candy all together, consider working with veggies to build a skeleton. Use celery and carrot sticks for spine, arms and legs; red pepper slices for the ribs; mushroom and cucumber slices for hips; cherry tomatoes for hands; and broccoli for feet. For the skull, fill a clear bowl with Greek yogurt seasoned with onion powder and place sliced olives for the eyes and mouth. The possibilities are endless, and the benefits are many!
Natalie Meador, MPH, RDN, LDN, Achieving Wellness Through Sensible Nutrition
People who are new to veganism are often surprised to find out that a lot of candies contain animal-based ingredients like gelatin and milk derivatives, making foods like gummy bears, Junior Mints and candy corn unsuitable for vegan diets. PETA keeps a database of foods that are “accidentally vegan,” so you can ID plenty of safe Halloween treats to satisfy your sweet tooth like Airheads, Dum Dum lolipops, and Jolly Rancher hard candies (and don’t go too crazy—candy is still candy, even if it’s vegan!).
Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian
If having Halloween candy in the house tempts you and your family to get started with the treats before October 31, Procrastinate. Buy your Halloween candy the day of or night before. Out of sight = Out of mind.
Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD
Go year-round with Halloween: Did a dietitian just say that? Yes – and it’s what we do in our house. Part of the excitement of Halloween is getting buckets of candy, and you want to eat it all before it’s gone, am I right? So what we do is take our bucket and put it in the top shelf of the pantry. When we feel like serving treats to our kids (and, let’s face it, ourselves) after Halloween and throughout the year, we take just one treat from the Halloween bucket. It’s amazing how long one Halloween haul will last!
Elana Natker, MS, RDN, Enlighten Nutrition
Plan ahead! Just like athletes plan ahead for a training session or a competition by staying well-fueled and well-hydrated throughout the day, so should you!! Be mindful of maintaining optimal nutritional intake throughout the day on Halloween. This will help you avoid over-indulging on sugar while trekking from house to house.
Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles, MS, RDN, CSSD, “There’s an Athlete in Everyone”
Get out and walk with your kids when they go trick-or-treating (instead of driving them around and staying in the car). You’ll get to spend some quality time with your kids, as well as get some physical activity in – a win-win situation!
Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CD, CDE, A healthy life your way
For Halloween night, hand out Mini Lara Bars with the chocolate chips – A healthy but still sweet, chocolaty treat.
Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, Eating better = Living better
Halloween is just around the corner and your sweet tooth can’t wait for you to dive into that candy bowl sitting at the front of your office. Grabbing a piece of candy every now and then may seem harmless but it can easily steer you in the wrong direction and undo all your hard work if you’re not mindful. Try keeping healthier Halloween treats close by to keep your sweet tooth at bay while staying on track with your wellness goals. Healthier Halloween Treat Ideas: Pumpkin spice flavored Greek yogurt; Boo-nana pops: Take half a peeled banana, dip it into vanilla yogurt, insert the popsicle stick into the banana, add two chocolate chips for the ghosts’ eyes, freeze and enjoy! Make your own Halloween trail mix: add a combination of your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Pre-portion the trail mix into 1/4 cup servings so you have a quick & easy sweet treat! Clementines- easy to peel and keep with you on the go! Apple slices with a tablespoon of nut butter mixed with 1 teaspoon honey
Samina Qureshi, RDN, LD
Consider giving out non-food treats to your trick-or-treaters and participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, sponsored by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). Children with food allergies miss out on the fun when they can’t collect food treats. When you place a teal pumpkin by your front door, trick-or-treaters will know that non-food treats are available at your house, which allows all kids to have a fun holiday. Non-food treats can include pencils, stickers, glow bracelets, or craft kits.
Beth Rosen, MS, RDN, CDN, Goodness Gracious Nutrition
Before your kids go trick-or-treating, make sure their bellies are full from dinner. That way they might be less tempted to snack on candy from house to house.
Katie Serbinski, MS, RDN, Founder of Mom to Mom Nutrition, LLC
Make the entire fall season the focus of your celebration, with candy being just one, small part of it! Go pumpkin or apple picking, have a Jack-O-Lantern decorating contest and roast the leftover seeds, host a party full of festive but healthy snacks and activities, find a local harvest festival to attend, and create fun costumes as a family. In the end, Halloween is just one night. If the emphasis is on the spirit of the season, even Halloween can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Jessica Serdikoff, RDN, CPT, Dietitian & blogger behind Floptimism
Keep Halloween as a one day holiday. That means allowing your child to have as much candy you are comfortable with for the actual day of the holiday. Then let the rest of the candy disappear by the next morning. In our house the kids pick one or two pieces then the switch witch picks the unwanted candy up from the front porch in exchange for a cool toy 😉 other families may choose to use the candy for holiday gingerbread house decorating or drop their candy off for prizes at the dentist’s office. Discuss your family’s Halloween rules with your child prior to the actual holiday so they are prepped and excited and not surprised or disappointed.
Sarika Sewak, MPH, RDN, Little Legumes Nutrition LLC
Stash Halloween fun-size bars in a dark, lonely place up until the time that trick-or-treaters are scheduled to arrive. My mom used to hide them on the tippy-top shelf of our family’s coat closet until the 31st! If she hadn’t done so, there likely would have been several trips to the store to purchase seconds! It’s pretty typical of kiddos to upend their bulging pillow cases upon their return from trick-or-treating, right? This year, when they do so, invite them to separate their “favorites” from their “I can live without its.” Granted, this might be easier to do with certain age groups than with others! Aim for parceling off 10% or more of the haul, then toss the ones that your kiddos can do without. Small victories!
Krista Ulatowski, MPH, RDN
Offer Non-Candy Alternatives: When trick-or-treaters ring your doorbell, offer them alternatives to candy. For example, pretzels, popcorn, trail mix, coins, pencils, erasers, temporary tattoos, and stickers are all popular options that some children will choose instead of candy when offered. By having both candy and non-candy options available, it allows all kids, including those with food allergies, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes, to choose a favorite that works for them.
Jill West, RDN, Author, Speaker, Health Coach
Choose proper portions. Eat only what you love. Donate the rest.
Lisa R Young, PhD, RDN, Rightsize your plate and your waist
Wow! That’s a great list. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared their expertise.
Have a hauntingly healthy Halloween!
Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN