Can you believe it – Halloween is just a few days away! This time of year is packed with fun fall activities and lots of tasty treats. But while you’re enjoying all the season has to offer, it’s important to keep some nutritional and safety considerations in mind, too.
Even though treats are typically small and individually wrapped, calories can quickly add up. Just four “bite size” candy bars provide more than 300 calories with very few beneficial nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and fiber. Keep in mind that excess calories can promote weight gain, and, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is convincing evidence that excess body fat and abdominal fatness are associated with increased risk of colon cancer.
That said, you don’t have to give up all your Halloween treats. Trick-or-treating is actually a great time to teach kids (and yourself!) about moderation and that many different foods can fit into a healthy diet. Keep in mind that restricting or forbidding a food can backfire and make it much more desirable. Instead, decide when candy can be eaten and how much is acceptable, and stick to the limits you set.
If you’re looking to do a healthy makeover to traditional Halloween goodies, consider passing out or snacking on these treats instead:
- granola bars
- mini boxes of dried fruit
- snack bags of pretzels
- goldfish or animal crackers
- trail mix
- fruit pouches
- single serve packets of low-fat popcorn
And bonus: many of these alternatives are good sources of fiber, which is strongly linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer!
It's Party Time!
Another fun aspect of this time of year is the crazy costume parties. We know party food isn’t always the healthiest. But, there are simple ways to make the food you’re serving delicious and healthy. Think about featuring fruits and veggies of the season, like pumpkin and apple. Try whole grain pumpkin muffins, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, hot apple cider, baked apples or fun Halloween-themed fruit creations (i.e. ghost bananas, clementine pumpkins, Frankenstein kiwi!). Plus, keep these food safety considerations in mind while entertaining:
- Avoid unpasteurized juices or cider (due to the potential for bacterial contamination and food-borne illness)
- Keep perishable foods, like finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit, tossed salads or cold pasta with meat or poultry, chilled until it’s time for them to be served
- Don’t leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature is over 90oF)
- Last but certainly not least, make sure everyone (kids and adults!) washes their hands before and after eating to help keep nasty bacteria away
There are so many fun ways to enjoy fall. Hopefully some of these ideas will help you have a happy, healthy and safe Halloween season!
This post was written by Aimee Shea, MPH, RD, CSO, LD, a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in oncology nutrition with
Aimee Shea, MPH, RD, CSO, LD, registered dietitian and board certified specialist in oncology nutrition with Meals to Heal.
Meals to Heal. Aimee received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland and her Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before moving to Columbus, Ohio, where she now resides, Aimee served as the Outpatient Oncology Dietitian at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, where she helped cancer patients make the most of their nutrition before, during and after treatment. In addition to working for Meals to Heal, Aimee is an adjunct nutrition instructor, both online and at a few local universities.
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