How can you turn Halloween into a fun-filled time for your children while keeping it not too frightening for you

My kids always look forward to Halloween, even though they don't eat the candy (at least in front of me). They look forward to dressing up in costumes, being out with their friends, and staying up late on a school night. I, on the other hand, do not look forward to Halloween. I don't like the focus on promoting fear of ugly-looking creatures and giving toxic items to children. I don't call the candy “treats” because that gives children the wrong message. Think about it, calling something a “treat” encourages your children to look forward to receiving the “treat”. Do you really want to encourage your children to look forward to eating something that could be as harmful as cigarettes?
Jack O'lantern Flickr: wwarby
With our growing obesity epidemic, the increase in diabetes and strokes in children, and the scientific link between junk food and depression, decreased intellect, criminal behavior, dementia, and cancer, it is time mothers took a stand against the traditional Halloween junk food-fest.

The sad fact is that even normally well-behaved children can start acting crazy after consuming all the highly-sugared, chemicalized junk they get. And the disrupting behavior can last for as long as a month afterward. Yet, I'm not a person who believes in letting eating choices turn my home into a war zone. I believe in providing an education in healthful eating—and setting a good example! I keep unhealthful foods out of the house, and trust my kids to use their best judgment. Thankfully, we have figured out how to make Halloween a happy time for all of us, without joining the candy craze. Here are some tips that have worked for us.

1. Hand out inexpensive toys instead of candy. By setting this good example, perhaps a neighbor will pick up on the idea. Even if nobody follows your lead, you will feel good about your decision. Toys are perhaps a little more expensive than candy, but not much, and they definitely send a great message to both the kids and the parents.

My children help choose what they think is cool. In recent years, we have been giving out glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets. The best thing about these toys is that they make kids safer in the dark because cars can see them when they are walking in the road. Kids say, “Wow!” or “Cool!” when they see the glowing gifts, so I know they love them. Plus, my kids are proud to hand them out. Now that my kids are older, they always remind me when it’s time to place my order. Other toys that we have purchased include blow up balloon balls, glow-in-the-dark animals, and glow-in-the-dark balls.

2. Make your family's favorite dinner on Halloween night, including their favorite desserts. There are great healthy fall menu ideas in the Member Center recipe guide. With full stomachs, your kids will be less tempted to eat the junk they receive. You also can try the Halloween treat recipes in the September 2006 Healthy Times Newsletter, or have some delicious Pop'ems and NEW Date-Nut Bars on hand from

3. When the children come home, if they are adamant about wanting to eat the candy, set a limit on how many candies they are allowed to eat. I suggest you allow them two pieces of candy, which they can pick out—and then discard the rest. In the past, we let our children pick one or two candies to eat, but in the more recent years they don’t even want any of it. They are too well informed now. Last Halloween, much to my surprise (I was brought up conventionally, so it’s amazing to watch Nutritarian children grow up) our children played with the candy. They opened the wrappers, and exclaimed how it didn’t look like food and then molded it.

4. Try to get your kids to choose not to eat the candy by making another option more tantalizing. For instance, give them money or a toy in exchange for their bag of candy.

5. Some people find it easiest to throw out all the candy after the children go to sleep. Little ones probably won't even remember it once it's gone, and getting rid of it eliminates temptation for the adults in the house. However, it is better to do this as a family and not secretively so the children understand the reason that it should be destroyed. It would be no different if the neighbors were being neighborly serving cigarettes or addictive drugs. Some socially accepted and popular customs are simply ignorant and dangerous. Dietary ignorance is the number one cause of death in America and everyone needs to know it.

6. Life is full of compromises— and this day will pass! I believe that with a little advance planning you can ensure that your children will have a fun time. Plus they will not be tempted to hide or sneak candy. I am certain you will be happier knowing that they will be eating a lot less candy this year than they did last year.


Image credit - Flickr: wwarby

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Annette Chambers - October 24, 2012 8:59 PM

Great Ideas!! I agree with the idea of not calling candy a "treat". This will be a better Halloween than in years past! Thanks again, Lisa!

Kim - October 25, 2012 10:38 AM

Years ago we began the tradition of the Great Pumpkin. Our three boys got to enjoy going out and Trick R Treating and when they came home they sorted their candy. Anything pseudo-healthy (granola bars, etc) we would save for lunches and they could have one per day. The hard candy, pop, etc. got bagged up and left in the middle of the living room floor. The Great Pumpkin came at midnight and picked it up and distributed it to all the poorer children in the world and as thanks for the boys selflessness, the pumpkin left them a small gift... maybe a DVD or a favorite video game. Kids never minded giving up the candy and I didn't have to see it sitting their tempting me. [My husband always has a stash of mini-chocolate bars in his workshop.]

MaryBeth Burton - October 25, 2012 10:59 AM

We also need to raise awareness about the social irresponsibility of the big chocolate candy manufacturers that buy their cocoa from farmers who employ child slavery and human trafficking. (See documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate). Educate your children on this global issue and teach them about the impacts of all of their choices on others.

Purchase only fair trade chocolate (insuring paying all workers involved in production of a product a livable wage and improving sustainability) or other healthier treats like granola bars or 100% fruit treats. The purchase of cheap plastic toys made in China are exploit Chinese workers (who work in near slavery conditions with limited environmental controls) and find their way into our aquatic environments where they harm the animals who live there.

Thank you for caring about these issues!

Amber - October 25, 2012 5:48 PM

Our dentist is exchanging $1 for every pound of candy this year on November 1st. After our kids pick out a couple of pieces to eat, we will be going to the dentist! I love this idea, and wish it would catch on more!

Joy Schwabach - October 26, 2012 9:02 PM

Here's a promotion that I got sent because I write about tech.

Head over to to load up on printable coupons with free game codes, then go out and give Plants vs. Zombies as a Halloween treat. There's no limit to the number of coupons you can print, so go Wall-nuts!
Enjoy Plants vs. Zombies free for Halloween!

Gail - October 28, 2012 8:19 PM

Great ideas, but I thought #5 was really wasteful. Why go get the candy your neighbors have paid for if you honestly have no plans to eat it? Find a fun activity not based on candy, but please don't waste others' "treats". Trashing anothers' "gift" is a poor lesson to teach your children.

Carrie - October 30, 2012 2:04 AM

We let my son trade his candy for a new toy, and he looks forward to it for weeks before Halloween, pondering which toy he will choose.

I also agree with the comment about teaching people about the horrors that the chocolate trade causes. My son is only three, but I'll teach him about that when he's older. The major candy companies that Halloween supports are not using fair trade chocolate, that's for sure!

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