By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian
---- — Q: Halloween is right around the corner. How do you keep your kids from overdoing it with all the candy? I don’t want to take away the fun holiday, but the amount of candy they get is overwhelming.
A: Halloween is known to be a sugar-laden candy fest, and is a perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about moderation and healthy eating.
Halloween, and all its fabulous chocolaty, gooey, rot-your-teeth sweetness, is a once-a-year occasion. The problem is when there is so much candy laying around that it lasts for months. Use this opportunity to talk to your kids and explain to them that candy, like many of our other favorite treats, is a “sometimes” food. “Sometimes” foods aren’t foods we eat every day because they don’t give our bodies the nutrients we need to grow and stay healthy. We enjoy “sometimes foods” on occasion, and because we enjoy them only once in a while, it makes them that much more special.
Now, nobody wants to rain on any kid’s candy parade — but not all Halloween treats have to be extremely sugar-laden. To keep things kid-friendly and ward off any candy battles, if you are going to offer healthier treats, make up for the lost sugar by upping the fun factor! Here are a few suggestions for a frightfully delicious (and nutritious) Halloween-themed meal that kids and adults can agree upon:
■ Make Halloween about more than the candy. Be sure to eat supper before trick-or-treating to help reduce all the quick grabs into the candy bag on the route around the neighborhood. Try Yummy Mummy Pizzas on whole-grain English muffins and explain to your kids that whole grains help fill their bellies and provide the energy they need to play. Add a few chopped veggies and “wrap up” your mummy pizzas with pieces of reduced-fat string cheese. Fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables dunked in a dip such as hummus, guacamole or salsa. According to a recent study, kids eat more vegetables and will consume a greater quantity when served with a dip.
■ Once the kids get home from trick-or-treating, let them eat some of their candy (you set the amount). Then have them go through what remains, choose their favorites and place in a small resealable bag. The rest you can donate, bring to a different event or throw out. One of my favorite ways to get kids to happily hand over their loot is to include the “Switch Witch.” The Switch Witch is a good witch who visits your house while your kids sleep. She takes the excess candy and switches it for an awesome prize. The book, "The Switch Witch," by Charity A. O’Neill-O’Kane, helps to explain and talk about this lovely witch and is a great story for all ages. Get creative with your prizes. You can look for a coveted toy or book that your child has been eyeing, or choose an activity for the whole family. A trip to an aquarium, zoo or indoor ice skating rink are all great, family-focused ideas.
■ Don’t be afraid this Halloween season to let the kids “be kids” and enjoy the sweet holiday. Teach them a few things about moderation and a balanced diet and get them involved in the process.
April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at AGraff@hy-vee.com or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her questions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.