Halloween is just around the corner! A time for tricks and so, so, so many treats.
As a nutritionist and mom to a 4 year old, I struggle with the notion of a bucket full of candy taking residence in my house.
I also recognize that it is just one day of celebrations, so if you’re someone who would prefer not to think about a healthier halloween – stop reading here and just enjoy the holiday!
For our family, on special occasions we do allow treats with ingredients we don’t normally eat – however with Halloween comes so much quantity plus a few ingredients that I absolutely don’t want to eat even for a treat. If you’re in the same boat or curious as to why I limit many kinds of candies read on.
Reason number one: I don’t want to deal with a sick kid for days afterward. For the immune system, concentrated sugar (in any form) is like your kid insisting on doing all the things by themselves when you’re already late – it slooooowwwwsss everything down.
Scientifically speaking it slows down our white blood cells (those guys that gobble up invading bacteria and viruses) ability to engulf invaders by about half. Thought you were getting sick because that one kid at the Halloween party sneezed on the cookies? Sure, that’s probably where you picked up the virus but the sugar-induced paralyzation of your immune system allowed it to take over.
As a side note – before you chug down that glass of orange juice to “boost” your immune system with Vitamin C, take note that the concentrated sugar in juice was shown to have the same effect on your poor white blood cells. You can get your C another way (Perhaps with the super nutrition of Juice Plus?).
Reason number 2 for my concern with Halloween candy? DYES – all the dyes. Red 40, Blue, Yellow 5, Yellow 6. A delicious piece of the rainbow? Nope. Neurotoxins linked to behavioral problems, cancer, DNA damage, reproductive issues, immunosuppression, and psychotoxicity? YES! Banned or required to carry a warning label in the UK, Europe, the EU, China, Austria, Canada, and other countries? YES!
Have you ever wondered why some kids go a little crazy after they eat sweets? Especially at a birthday party or other event that might have a colorful cake, candies, kool-aid like drinks, or popsicles?
Most of us would guess the sugar – and you’re probably partially right – however, I’d guess the extreme reactions, the “behavioral problems” – are more related to the consumption of food dyes. In particular, Red 40 seems to cause at the very least erratic behavior and at the extreme violence. A 2 or 3 year old hitting another child may be normal developmentally, and if it’s consistently happening after being fed a NEUROTOXIN, it may be linked to what they are consuming rather than a developmental hurdle.
Reason number 3? Food allergies and sensitivities. How much must it suck to be the kid who can’t eat the treats? I CHOOSE not to eat some foods for myself and it can feel isolating. For a kiddo with a food allergy or sensitivity, they have no choice in being excluded from all the fun.
Why can’t we provide fun treats that EVERYONE can enjoy and that don’t make us sick? The Teal Pumpkin Project is an awesome ambassador for creating an inclusive Halloween. They encourage handing out allergen friendly non-food treats, so everyone gets to enjoy the fun!
Ok – let’s move away from the doom, gloom, and lecturing.
Let’s say you get what I’m saying and you still want to allow your kiddo to indulge at least a little bit? Here are some creative ways to limit your kiddos candy and get it out of the house without a fuss.
- Limits: Have a limit of how many pieces that can have/keep. I like to use the age rule: 4 years old, 4 pieces of candy. Or limit when they can eat the candy – only for that one night or a certain number of days. Everything left gets thrown away or donated.
- Switch Witch/Great Pumpkin: This one is kind of like the Easter bunny or Santa except “they” take the candy in exchange for some other fun goodies. Kiddos leave their candy bucket out on the porch or wherever and “they” (you) switch out your candy for a fun toy or prize! I personally use this one and plan to include a toy as well as some of the fun food treats that I can feel ok about.
- Buy Back Programs: many dentists will buy candy from kiddos. Candy for cold hard cash? Yes! I believe many of these programs then donate the candy.
If you want to provide healthier options to all your visiting trick or treaters this year, throw a healthier Halloween party, or perhaps just want some great options to have on hand for the switch witch gift or to trade with your kiddo – here is a list of Small Toys and Non Food Treats, Non Candy/Alternative Food Treats, and options for those who feel they have to have candy and want it to be a bit healthier.
PS – some of these food-based treats may still be problematic for some kiddos or families, however, I wanted to provide a range of options so you feel comfortable and excited about the treats you’re providing. If you are providing allergy-free treats as well as some with potential allergies, separate them into different containers to help trick or treaters choose the best option for their body.
- Small Toys/Non Food Treats:
- Glider Airplanes
- Bouncy Balls – always fun for kiddos and CHEAPER than candy! Or grab these spook eyeball ones
- Fake Mustaches
- Mini Flashlights
- Mini Notebooks
- Wiki Stix
- Lego Minifigures
- Glow Bracelets
- Slap Bracelets
- Fun-size Play-Doh
- Spider Rings
- Punch Balloons
- Temporary Tattoos
- And don’t forget that you can get lot’s of small toy like options on Oriental Trading Company
- Alternative Food Treats:
- Juice Boxes – I love the Honest brand because they’re not super concentrated. It’s juice, so still a treat but a better option than most candy. They carry Honest at Costco as well!
- Fruit Leather – we love these ones by Stretch Island Co (also available at Costco) as well as the Target house brand.
- Local Honey Sticks – even though they are technically a concentrated sugar source, local honey seems to have a beneficial effect on the immune system so it’s a treat I can get behind. Find a local beekeeper or order online.
- Pretzels – Not allergen free for many but they’re better than many options
- Annies Snacks – several options in healthier than other brands variations
- Mini Bars – for nut free schools or houses, these can be tough. Here are a few brands with quality ingredients or better than other ingredients: Kind, RX, Lara, Z Bars
- Bitzy’s Brain Food Snack
- Dried or Dehydrated Fruit Mini Packs these or these
- Fruit – for a small party or group, decorate your fruit with scary faces or make oranges look like little pumpkins.
- Gotta Have Candy Options:
- Dye Free Organic Lolli Pops
- Xylitol Lollipops – Xylitol is great for healthy teeth! (keep away from dogs, it’s highly toxic for them)
- Unreal Candy – dye free, certified gmo free, etc these are a great alternative option to candies with colors
- Endangered Species Bug Bites Dark Chocolate
- Enjoy Life Allergen Free Candies
- Spry Gum – again xylitol sweetened and much better for the teeth!
- Surf Sweet Jelly Beans – dye free and packed with Vitamin C! (although my earlier caveat of that being sort of counterproductive with the sugar content still applies)
- There are lot’s of other brands popping up with dye free candies not included in this list. If you’re unsure about a product you can post in my Facebook group or email me to ask about my thoughts!
I’d love to know your ideas for a healthier Halloween treat! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook and Instagram @thebrittanyhenderson
Brittany Henderson is a Certified Health Coach and Nutritionist living in Las Vegas with her husband and 4 year old son. For more information on working with Brittany, email email@example.com