Halloween was HUGE deal in my neighborhood growing up. Back then, we knew every family on our block, so our parents felt comfortable letting us run from house to house hoarding as much candy as humanly possible. We knew the houses with best candy. We also knew the houses with the worst. For instance, we had one neighbor, Mr. G, that would give us pennies… pennies (!), instead of candy. I won’t lie to myself and say he was looking out for our health. He was the sole hold out in a demographically shifting neighborhood in the 80s and spent most of his time shouting us off his grass. However, I did recognize the value in offering something different.
As a health conscious mom, when Halloween rolls around, I often try to find a balance between being the penny-dispensing lame house and the more-sugar-the-better cool house. I know it’s fun to indulge once and a while. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to do so responsibly. Here are some tips on making the best choices for your kids this Halloween!
1. Offer healthy alternatives.
With more kids with gluten allergies and other food restrictions, you can redefine your own cool by offering sweet alternatives to traditional Halloween candy. When shopping for goodies to hand out to trick or treaters, I usually avoid artificial dyes and artificial preservatives like TBHQ, BHT and BHA. I also avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, nitrates/nitrites, sulfites, or potassium bromate. Often these ingredients contain known carcinogens.
The good news is, most grocery stores offer snack packs of healthy treats. Instead of reaching for the candy, try a snack bag of popcorn, veggie chips or fruit snacks. Prepackaged raisins, dried cranberries and other dried fruit are also a great alternative. GoGo squeeZ also offers organic, slurpable apple sauce in different flavors that my kids love. Honey and chocolate chip Teddy Grahams are also free of the scary stuff. Also, companies like YummyEarth make dye-free, organic candy like lollipops and gummies. With a little digging, you can usually find them at Target or your local grocery store. The unfortunate reality is that many of these things will end up costing you a bit but if you run out, there are always pennies.
2. Make candy collection the objective.
Truth be told, in my house, my kids don’t consume the Halloween candy they collect. I know, I know… but at least I’m not Mr. G! The thing is with diabetes, obesity, and heart disease heavy in my kids’ gene pool (and that of many in our community), it is important to me that I give them a healthy foundation. The truth is, kids don’t miss what they never had; so outside of curiosity, they rarely ask for the bad stuff.
I promise: all fun is not lost! At the end of the night, we lay all of the candy out on the living room floor and count it. It becomes a competition to see who collected the most. In the following days, a number of organizations, including our local dentist, coordinate a Halloween candy buy back that allows then to make some change for their piggy banks. There are also some companies that allow you to donate candy to the military or other groups that could use a little sweet treat. Keep an eye out for postings in your community or google deals near you.
3. Consume unhealthy treats in moderation
If you just can’t resist those yummy Halloween treats, educate yourself on what is in them and do so in moderation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association, kids should have between 19-30g of sugar per day and 1,500mg of sodium per day. Children ages 4 to 8 need 33 to 78 grams of fat daily; kids ages 9 to 13 require 39 to 101 grams of fat daily. Sources of healthy, unsaturated dietary fats for children include vegetable oils, purified omega-3 oils, avocados, olives, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. Saturated, unhealthy fats are found in high-fat meats, lard, butter, cream, ice cream and full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk and cheese.
Below is a list of some of your favorite sweet treats along with their calories, sugar and fat content. Many of these options, when combined or consumed in excess, exceed recommended daily intake for sodium, sugar and/or fat. Instead of allowing your kids unrestricted on access to all the candy they collect, spread it out over the days following Halloween to be sure you are staying within recommended guidelines.
Snickers, Fun Size 80 cal, 4g of fat, 8.5g sugar
Kit Kat, Snack Size 70cal, 3.6g of fat, 7g sugar
3 Musketeers, Fun Size 63cal, 2g of fat, 10g sugar
M&Ms, Fun Size 73cal, 4g of fat, 11g sugar
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 110cal, 6.5g fat, 10.5g sugar
Hershey Kisses (4 pieces) 88cal, 5g of fat, 10g sugar
Candy Corn (Brachs, 19 pieces) 140cal, 0g of fat, 28g sugar
Smarties (1 roll) 25cal, 0g of fat, 7g sugar
Skittles, Fun Size 80cal, 0.8 of fat, 14.5 sugar
Jolly Rancher Sucker (1 lollipop) 120cal, 0g of fat, 26g sugar
Charms Blow Pop (1 lollipop) 70cal, 0g of fat, 13g sugar
Tootsie Rolls (6 pieces) 140cal, 3g of fat, 19g sugar
4. Screen Your Kids Treats
Unlike when I grew up, I don’t know all of my neighbors. While Halloween is still a HUGE deal in our neighborhood, often we are knocking on the doors of houses and taking treats from people we never met. For that reason, it is extremely important to inspect all goods you allow your kids to consume.
As a tip, make sure all treats are prepackaged. While homemade goodies are thoughtful, if you don’t know the chef or their safety habits, you may be endangering your child. Stay away from perishables that don’t have a clearly visible expiration date. Lastly, inspect, inspect, inspect. Make sure all packaged items are properly sealed and closed. When opened, screen for discolored or foul-smelling items. As my mom would say, when in doubt, throw it out.
About The Author
Faye McCray is an attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For Harriet, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, Black and Married with Kids, and other popular publications. Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon. Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.