If you’re the kind of mom who wants to minimize the amount of sugar your kids eat this Halloween, I have several tips and a couple of healthy alternatives for you to consider.
Halloween is one of those “sugar holidays” that can sabotage your efforts to feed your children healthier diets. It may just be the most challenging holiday, since your children are out collecting other people’s candy choices. So now is the time for a little nutrition tough love. It’s time to step up to the parenting plate, set rules before they even begin trick or treating, and control the amount of candy your children eat, when they eat it and how long it stays in the house. One of my girlfriends set the following rules for her three kids:
1. Eat no candy until you come home and mom and dad look through it for safety reasons.
2. Parents control when and how much candy their kids can eat.
3. Brush teeth immediately after eating candy.
4. After one week, the remaining candy gets thrown out.
I must admit, her rules are much stricter than my mom’s ever were, but then my mom gave out apples, not candy. Unfortunately, the innocence of those days is long gone.
Most common Halloween mini candy bars contain about 80 to 100 calories, predominately from sugar and fat with little or no protein. It’s nothing for a kid to munch down three to five mini candy bars for an immediate 300 to 500 calories or more.
If you’re looking for alternatives to candy, many stores have mini bags of pretzels, nuts, kettle corn or cheese crackers that contain 100 calories or less. Last year I handed out bags of organic popcorn. I was surprised to hear the positive comments from the trick-or-treaters when they saw a bag of popcorn. In fact, popcorn may be one of the best Halloween treats to give your kids. According to recent studies, the crunchy hulls in popcorn contain high levels of fiber plus antioxidants rich in polyphenols that may play a protective role. And, one cup of plain popcorn contains about 30 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.
If you’re hosting a Halloween party, replace potato chips and other high calorie snacks with delicious bowls of organic air-popped popcorn or pop it the old fashioned way on the stove with a little coconut oil. You can add a variety of flavors when you lightly drizzle or spritz the popcorn with olive oil then sprinkle it with sea salt or flavorful parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper or even Italian seasonings.
Halloween is a fun holiday, but you can help to make it a little healthier for everyone by replacing some of the sugary snacks with those that have some good nutritional qualities. And before your kids even head out the door, don’t forget to feed them a quality protein dinner. A bowl of chili, chicken vegetable soup or other quality protein meal will help minimize the blood sugar spikes from candy they may eat later that night.
Finally, when doling out the candy during the weeks following Halloween, remind your children why sugary treats should only be consumed in moderation. Have them at the end of a meal that was balanced with nutrient-dense protein, high fiber, low glycemic carbohydrates and important fats. You can still enjoy the “sugar holidays” if you remember to practice balance, control and moderation.
Joyce Daoust is a Certified Nutritionist, Balance Bar® spokesperson and national best-selling co-author of THE FORMULA, A Personalized 40-30-30 Weight Loss Program