Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Tricks for a Healthy Halloween - Now That's a Treat!

Whether you celebrate with your little ones or with friends and coworkers, Halloween hauls don't have to ruin your health.  Here are my tips to help you enjoy the celebration without spinning off track.

For little ones going trick-or-treating:

1) Limit the number of houses you hit trick-or-treating.  Decide how you want to do this beforehand, and make sure the kids know the plan.
Make it fun:
- Choose houses with the best decorations and unique jack-o-lanterns.  See if you can take pictures of the decorations, and make sure to compliment the homeowner's decorations when you reach the door.  This takes the emphasis off just getting candy.
- If you're trick-or-treating in a group of 4 or more (e.g. 2 parents/chaperones and 2 children), split into teams and choose one street or block per team.  See who can finish their route first.  The winning team gets first pick of an extra (healthy) treat or item, such as sheets of stickers, temporary tattoos, or a small toy, from the chaperones.  When teams meet up again, they can trade up to 5 treats between them.

2) Let them choose a few pieces of candy to eat after trick-or-treating, then sort through the rest to either keep for another day or toss/give away.  Have them take out items they don't want, and set an upper limit (e.g. 5, 10, or 20 pieces) for the stuff they can keep.  If they tend to "toss" healthier items, like mini-boxes of raisins, save them anyway, either for yourself or for their lunchboxes another day.
Bonus: The "Switch Witch" is a neat idea to get rid of excess candy without your kids feeling deprived of their hard-earned haul.  Like the Tooth Fairy, the Switch Witch leaves something behind - crayons, bubbles, silly bandz, etc. - in exchange for the candy.

For trick-or-treaters visiting your house:

3) Choose "healthier" treat options.  Examples:
- Mini-boxes of raisins such as PC Organics (they come 14 boxes to a bag)
- Mini-bags of organic popcorn or non-GMO verified chips
- Organic chocolates such as Camino or Barkley's (you may find these in the bulk section or checkout counters at some health food stores)
- Organic lollipops such as Yum Earth
- Individual packets of SaviSeeds
- Non-GMO verified snack bars like Enjoy Life (also top-allergen-free) or Nature's Path
- Individually-wrapped ginger candies
Get creative and see what healthy options are available in your area.

4) Give out non-food treat alternatives.  Examples:
- Stickers
- Temporary tattoos
- Bubbles
- Halloween novelty items (e.g. spider rings, bouncing eyeballs, etc.)
- Pencils and erasers
- Crayons
- Play-Doh
- Small toys (e.g. army men, dinosaurs, zoo animals, Lego pieces, etc.)
- City of Ottawa swim/skate coupons
Again, get creative and see what you can find!

For health-conscious adults:

5) If you're tempted to dig in to your kids' leftover/unwanted candy, or more importantly, tempted to binge on that candy, bring it with you to work to share with coworkers, donate it to a Food Bank, or just throw it away.

6) If you're hosting or attending a Halloween party, and want to make something fun but not unhealthy, look for healthy Halloween ideas on sites like Pinterest.  Some good ones: pumpkin-shaped energy balls, "frog eggs & eyeballs" (coconut green tea chia pudding with lychees), veggies arranged into skeletons or jack-o-lanterns, etc.  Check out my Playing with Food Pinterest board for these ideas and more!

7) Sugar overload can be hard to avoid during Halloween celebrations.  To help minimize the amount of white refined sugar you and your loved ones consume, make Halloween treats with healthier alternatives, such as organic coconut sugar, unsulphured blackstrap molasses, raw honey, dates or date paste, raisins, apple sauce, cinnamon, organic vanilla extract, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or organic cane sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners like Equal, NutraSweet, Sugar Twin, Splenda, and Hermesetas.  These contain aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, among other harmful chemicals.
For a no-calorie natural alternative, try a good-quality stevia powder or extract.  Be sure to read the ingredients, as not all stevia products are pure stevia and may contain fillers, even hidden GMOs.  The label should indicate rebaudiana, Reb-A, or stevia leaf powder/extract only.

For everyone:

8) Be informed.  Know what some of the food industry's buzzwords are and what they may mean.  "All natural", for example, is not regulated as a labeling term, and products boasting this claim may in fact contain GMOs, pesticides, and other hidden horrors (like the ambiguous "natural flavours").  Check out this list of potential GMO ingredients, and this list of GMO-containing brands and products.
As with everything else, when in doubt, go organic.

Remember to stay safe and have fun!  Happy Halloween!

Do you have healthy Halloween tricks to cope with all the treats?  Share them with me!

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