by Sabra Rebo, R.D. Down to Earth Community Outreach Team Leader
No bones about it… the holidays and healthy eating can be a challenge. Halloween is the start to the fall and winter seasons of sweets and treats, and finding balance now can help you navigate the upcoming holiday season. The focus of Halloween is often candy, but with a few helpful tips you can find ways to enjoy other fun aspects of the holiday while making healthier choices.
Chocolate in all forms is a favorite Halloween treat for many. The trick is choosing dark chocolate due to the health advantages over milk or white chocolate. Chocolate comes from the fruit pods of the cacao tree. The cacao pods are processed to form coco “nibs” which are then ground and pressed to make a brown liquid or paste called “chocolate liquor”1. The chocolate liquor is combined with different amounts of cocoa solids, milk, fat, sugar, and cocoa butter to make variations of chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than other varieties of chocolate and that is where the health benefits lie. The cocoa bean is a rich source of the antioxidant theobromine, which helps reduce inflammation and protects your cardiovascular system and may help lower blood pressure.2 Even with the health benefits of dark chocolate it is important to consume an appropriate portion size. The recommended amount of dark chocolate is around 1 ounce of 60% to 70% dark chocolate a few times a weeki.
- Enjoy a healthy snack or meal before you go trick-or-treating. A healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating gives you and your family energy to walk the neighborhood. Additionally, everyone is less likely to over-indulge in candy if they are full from a healthy meal.
- Hand out non-sugary treats like individual packs of whole grain crackers or pretzels. Non-food treats like inexpensive toys, stickers, temporary tattoos, and glo-sticks or glo-bracelets are always a hit with kids!
- Practice portion control. Bite-size or mini candies can help control portion sizes. Talk to your kids before you go trick-or-treating and set limits on candy consumption so they know what to expect.
- Allow your child to have 1-3 small pieces of candy per day and put the rest out of sight or in the freezer. Kids will often forget about the candy after the excitement has worn off.
- If your child asks for a piece of candy pair it with a healthy snack like fruit, nuts, or whole grains.
- After 2 weeks discard, donate, or trade the leftover candy. Trading candy for a “fun-day” is a great way to bond with your child. Let them pick their favorite activity and trade a day of fun for the remainder of the candy.
- Make Halloween about fun activities and not just candy. Have a costume parade in the morning, make a spooky snack or meal together, or read your favorite Halloween book!
Halloween is just one day a year. Teaching your kids about balance and having an overall healthy eating pattern the rest of the year is the most important thing. Check your nearest Down to Earth location for natural, organic, and fresh ingredients for your favorite spooky meals and snacks. Down to Earth also carries “treats” without artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, or additives. Happy Halloween!
1 Today’s Dietitian. Ask the Expert: Chocolate’s Health Benefits. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0216p10.shtml. Accessed 14 September 2016.