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Healthy Halloween Recommendations for Kids


I'm Stephanie Rink, a US-trained dietitian/nutritionist living with my two children (a toddler and a newborn) here in Paris. As we approach Halloween (and the wonderful Message Halloween trick-or-treat event!), I wanted to provide a few quick tips and suggestions to keep your Halloween healthy and safe. Keep these tips in mind for your own children, as well as for when you are selecting items to give out to others.

Food Safety:

Whether you are giving out treats or are trick-or-treating with your own children, it is essential to keep food safety in mind. Here are some key points:

  1. Avoid choking hazards. Children under 4 are particularly at risk of choking on foods, so it is important to avoid high-risk foods when giving out treats or allowing your children to enjoy them. These include hard candies, very sticky or hard to chew items (sticky taffy or marshmallows, for example), or any items including nuts, dried fruits, or popcorn.

  2. Ensure treats are in sealed individual packages. Double check the packaging on each item your child receives (or the items you are giving out), and throw away any items with open or damaged packaging. Of course, if you are going to a party where you know and trust the source of unpackaged items (homemade cookies or brownies from a boulangerie, for example), go ahead and enjoy!

  3. Stay away from allergens. During events involving groups of children, it is best to avoid giving out candy with nuts to avoid the potential of risky allergic reactions. If your child has an allergy, be sure to closely look at all ingredient lists before letting your child enjoy the treat, and consider only accepting packaged items with ingredient lists (rather than homemade items) to be certain of possible allergens.

Keep it fun (and healthy!):

Halloween is meant to be full of candy and treats, but there are still ways to keep the day (or days...) balanced. Here's how:

  1. Even though there might be candy or treats throughout the day, maintain a regular eating schedule with balanced meals. Make sure your child knows they can expect to eat breakfast, lunch, goûter, and dinner.

  2. Prioritize protein, fiber, and vegetables at meals. There will be plenty of sugar to be had throughout the day, so help your child maintain a more balanced blood sugar by focusing on protein (like beans, lean meat, or eggs), fiber (whole grains, fruit, or beans), and non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, etc.).

  3. Detach value from candy. The less value we attach to certain foods, the more balanced your kids will end up eating because they don't perceive some foods as "better" than others. When some foods feel more "normal" or are less restricted, our kids do a better job of listening to their bodies instead of eating loads of that food simply because it is there. There are a few ways to do this: allow your kids to eat their treats freely without restriction on Halloween or certain days only; serve a piece or two of candy WITH a meal (not after, no need to eat the "healthy" foods first) and don't make a big deal out of it (simply: "Here you go! Here is dinner!"); explain to your kids that sometimes we eat candy, just like sometimes we eat apples or sometimes we eat carrots (it is just another food); and avoid using Halloween treats as a reward for behavior - this only gives the food more value in the kid's mind.

  4. Consider giving out or incorporating healthier or non-candy treats. Some candy alternatives could be fruit (clementines, apples), vegetables (individual packets of radishes, cherry tomatoes, or baby carrots), cheese (like the individually wrapped Babybel cheeses), art supplies (small stamps, stickers), or small toys (like animal figurines, plastic rings, bubbles containers, etc.).

  5. Incorporate exercise. On days when your kids have Halloween events or parties, ensure they have the chance to move their bodies to work out some of the sugar their bodies are trying to handle. Go to the park, play tag, have a dance party, whatever gets your family moving!

  6. Help your kids stay hydrated. Offer plenty of water throughout the day to help their bodies feel good. This also helps to balance blood sugar spikes and dips (So maybe fewer meltdowns? One can hope!).

Wishing everyone a safe and fun Halloween!


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