While your kids are psyched for their festive costumes and Halloween classics, nothing comes close to all the mouth-watering sweets they are waiting to devour. While it’s fun to watch them explode with enthusiasm during this season, it’s not so fun thinking of all the cavities and possible tummy aches waiting to haunt them.
Maintaining healthy habits for your little ones is important, especially during the holidays. Having them finish the year strong with consistent eating habits (even though they may indulge here and there) helps them build healthy relationships with food that will grow with them.
So, before we get to the sweet stuff, let’s look at why it’s a good practice to maintain healthy habits for kids on Halloween.
It helps teach the importance of moderation
“Kids are continuing to grow and develop, so they must consume a variety of foods,” says Jennifer Norris, MS, RDN, at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center. “This is also an exceptional time for children to cultivate a healthy relationship with food and understand the necessity of balance with food.” Leading by example can help them grasp the concept more. It’s tricky when they want all the Halloween treats at once, but exploring what they can have instead of what they can’t, is more likely to prevent overindulgence.
Kids are less likely to develop cavities
Cavities aren’t fun—not to mention that jaw-clenching trip to the dentist to get them corrected. This can be a nightmare for kids and adults, too. Monitoring candy intake and portion sizes as well as ensuring they are brushing their teeth at least twice daily, especially after eating sweets, will do the trick—or in this case, treat.
Healthy habits support digestion and gut health
“While candy might be delicious, having too much can cause an upset stomach and increase blood glucose levels,” says Norris. Other symptoms may include bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea—not fun at all. Too much sugar can affect the healthy bacteria in their guts, which, as a result, can be a gateway for chronic illnesses to develop down the road. Keeping score of their candy intake can prevent an eruption of tummy worries their future selves will thank them for.
It helps kids maintain a healthy weight
While sweets are delicious and enjoyable, they are mostly empty calories. And empty calories, if consumed in excess, may lead to unhealthy weight gain. The extra calories (if not utilized in the body) can get stored as fat. Norris also adds that “it is helpful to include a balanced dinner before trick-or-treating as it shows children the importance of having a variety of nutrients in addition to any candy they may have.” Teaching kids the importance of listening to their bodies when full is teaching them mindfulness. “And practicing mindfulness with children is a great way to help them maintain healthy habits,” says Norris.
With these benefits in mind, you may wonder how you can curb sweet cravings while keeping their health in mind. With these four tips, you can monitor their sugar intake without a sugar burst.
Let your kids be your sous chef. Kids love when they are helping and being a part of something great. So what better way than to get them involved in the kitchen? “It can be a fun opportunity to bake with children as they create healthier versions of some fall favorites,” says Norris. Have them pour out the ingredients, make silly faces with fruits, dice up some apples—whatever it is, they will more likely enjoy the finished product knowing they were a part of the masterpiece.
This can be a great teaching moment as you explain the benefits of each ingredient. Chances are they may appreciate the home-prepped goodies even more while satisfying their sweet tooth. Make it fun and creative! Turn up some tunes, put on a funky costume, and get groovy!
Use sugar substitutes as replacements. Excessive consumption of added sugars during childhood has been linked to increased risks of health issues later in life. But entirely removing sugar can dull and bland foods, so instead of skipping out on sweet delicacies, opt for sugar substitutes. Ingredients like agave nectar, applesauce, ripe bananas, dates, coconut sugar, honey, and cocoa nibs can do the trick. They create unique flavors, add nutritional value, and are much healthier than sugar. Your little ones won’t even notice the difference.
More fruits, please. Fruits are always a good choice as a snack or treat. Getting creative with fruits can quickly satisfy a sweet tooth. “Parents can incorporate fresh seasonal fruits, such as pears and cranberries, into their child’s meals,” says Norris. Get crafty by “making pumpkins from mandarin oranges or bananas as ghosts for an interactive snack.” Don’t forget about all the fantastic nutrition they will get!
Avoid using candy as a reward. It can be tempting to trade a lollipop for good behavior or some chocolate for completing chores, but this is a sneaky way of increasing sugar intake without even thinking about it. Try offering an activity that you can do together as a reward. For example, if they complete their chores, they can watch their favorite spooktacular movie and perhaps even make some chocolate popcorn balls.
Here’s the thing: satisfying your kids’ sweet tooth doesn’t have to be sour and bland—or even about candy. You can ‘trick-and-treat’ them with creative, seasonal foods that are nutritious and oh-so-tasty. Check out these notorious sweater-weather favorites!
Sweet potatoes are nutritious and filled with vitamins A and C, potassium, and magnesium. It’s easy to forget that they are vegetables as they can morph into many recipes. How about making a rich, creamy smoothie with pumpkin spice, greek yogurt, and banana? Try this spiced sweet potato smoothie; it’s bound to be a winner among kids.
Fall and apples just go together. They’re the perfect snack any time of day that won’t give your child a sugar high. For instance, try these loaded apple bagels that can serve up in under five minutes.
Slice a ripe apple into circles like a bagel; make a circle in the center as you remove the seeds. Add delicious toppings as spreads, such as cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and nut butter—and either fresh fruits, cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, or a drizzle of honey. The combinations are endless! Even “baked apples are simple and delicious fall-friendly snacks,” says Norris.
Loaded with vitamins B and C and antioxidants, cranberries provide many health benefits that are essential for your growing child. They are a known fall favorite and are excellent additives to baked goodies. Let’s take this oat scone and cranberry recipe for starters—flaky, fiber-filled goodness your kids will savor.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.