Advise Me

Tips for a Happy and, Yes, Healthy Halloween

Soon your doorstep will be filled with ghosts, goblins and gregarious kids asking for treats. With the chance to dress up in fun costumes and stock up on candy, it’s no wonder Halloween is a favorite holiday for kids and adults in the United States. 

While most kids can’t wait to fill trick or treat bags and pillowcases with candy, many parents worry about tummy aches, sugar rushes and things that go bump in the night—trips and falls and traffic dangers. If you plan on taking your kids trick-or-treating on October 31, here are some tips to keep it fun, healthy and safe!

Healthy Halloween tips

Halloween is meant to be fun, but overindulgence doesn’t need to be the name of the game. Karen Hemmes, registered dietetic technician with Banner Health, has five healthy tips:

1. Eat a fun, festive meal. Have your kids help you make a Halloween-specific meal. A healthy meal can help their tummies feel fuller for longer and not overindulge. 

“A full stomach can help curb temptation to overindulge in treats while out trick-or-treating,” Hemmes said. She suggests sending your kids out on a full stomach. Prepare a meal with lean protein and fiber, such as turkey chili or chicken stir fry with brown rice to really fill them up. 

2. Set limits, but don’t deny yourself. Depending on your little ones’ personality, they may want to eat every piece of Halloween candy in their bag. Consider setting limits. But don’t deny yourself sweet treats. Have a few pieces so you’ll be less tempted to binge later.

3. Get moving. Going door-to-door? Consider tracking your steps. Set a goal as a family and see how far you can walk. If you are staying behind to pass out candy, put on music and do a little dancing. Exercise can distract you from indulging in candy.

4. Donate excess candy. If your house is overloaded with candy, consider donating some of it to organizations, such as the military or nonprofit groups. Many dentists and orthodontists also collect candy too!

5. Opt for healthier treats. Even though the cornerstone of Halloween is treats, there are alternatives kids love too. Consider some of these candy alternatives:

  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets
  • Stationary, pencils, pens and notebooks
  • Healthy snacks like granola bars, trail mix or dried fruit

“As long as you treat candy and holiday treats as a special or once-a-year thing, it can still be a happy and healthy holiday for all,” Hemmes said. 

Halloween safety tips

Although Halloween is a fun-filled time, don't forget the dangers it can pose to your young trick-or-treaters. “At Halloween, we see everything from burns to cuts to kids falling, but the big thing is that we have an increase in pedestrian injuries. So many kids are hit by cars on Halloween night,’’ Tracey Fejt, RN, trauma outreach and and injury prevention coordinator with Banner Children’s said.

Fejt offers safety tips to keep you and your family safe:

1. Costumes: Make sure your child’s costume fits properly.  

  • Opt for face painting over masks, so you can ensure they see fully.
  • To prevent tripping, avoid oversized costumes or materials that drag on the ground.
  • Props, such as wands or swords, should be short and flexible.
  • Choose light-colored costumes or add reflective tape or glow-in-the-dark tape so costumes are clearly seen at night. Have your child wear glow sticks or carry a flashlight, as another option.
  • Avoid decorative contact lenses as part of a costume. Any contact lenses, including decorative ones, can cause serious eye injuries if you do not have a prescription or they are not worn correctly.

2. Safe walking: The risk of kids being hit by a car is higher on Halloween than other days of the year. Make sure kids follow traffic safety rules. Use sidewalks on lit streets, cross streets at crosswalks and don’t cut across yards and driveways – always obey traffic signals.

3. Candy checks: Help your child check all treats to make sure they are sealed. Tampering is rare but throw out any candy with torn packages or holes, spoiled items and any homemade treats that weren’t made by someone you know. Depending on your child’s age, don’t let them have hard candy or gum. 

4. Watch for food allergies: Having food allergies doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Don’t let your food-allergic child trick-or-treat alone and always carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) with you. Teach your child how to politely say no to certain foods and candy. Be cautious of “fun-size” candies, as these may contain different ingredients than regular size packages. 

Fejt also recommends looking for teal-colored pumpkins outside of homes. This alerts families in the neighborhood that they have safe items for kids with allergies. 

For more health and safety tips, visit Have a happy, healthy and safe Halloween! 

Other useful articles:

Children's Health Holidays Parenting