Halloween – the good, the bad and the ugly

pumpkin-halloween-deco-decoration; Credit pixabay

How to make Halloween healthier for you and the kids without being a spoilsport.

According to Forbes*, it is predicted that "the average US household will spend about $125 on candy, costumes, decorations and other Halloween related items". The total spending? About "$11.3 billion in 2014"! Who knows how much Australians will spend in 2019.

The value and numbers aren't known for Australia.

Celebrated on Friday 31st October, the costumes, pumpkins, Halloween lollies and other promotions in a variety of shops indicate that Halloween has firmed its grip on young Australians.

Love it or not, there are worrying aspects to trick or treating that I address here.

I also offer a few non-lolly trick or treat ideas to satisfy the little monsters who knock on your door.

When you think about it, many things that go with Halloween rub against our best efforts to keep the children safe and healthy.

On Halloween, kids:

  • knock on strangers’ doors
  • accept candy, treats and lollies from strangers
  • accept unwrapped food from unknown people
  • walk in the evening light, perhaps unsupervised by adults to be frightened by ‘monsters’, cobwebs and other scary items, and
  • eat bucket loads of sugary sweets before bed.

Make it safer

A smart reader's suggestion to keep the kids safe is pre-arrange a secret motif to be displayed clearly at participating neighbours. The motif signals a 'safe house' to door knock. It could be a specific coloured ribbon, type of balloon, or uniquely worded imaged tag on the letterbox and front gate. Tag along behind the kids to keep an eye on the street and to watch out for scary wanderers.

Decorate costumes with glow-in-the-dark fluro sticks and bracelets.

Ask the kids not to eat anything until they get home. Once home, check and sort the lollies. Tampering, out-of-date, allergens and poor hygiene may be concerns. Make a deal with the kids to trade any suspicious items (or all lollies) for another surprise gift from you. Perhaps get kids to collect their lollies in a sealed bucket with a small hole in the top (like fund-raising donation buckets).

Like it or not, the celebration of Halloween is gaining momentum in Australia in a massive way.

So how do you prevent or avoid the aftermath of sugar overload?

As a treater, you could be left with a pantry full of temptation if you stock up with too many sweet treats for the number of little monsters that knock on your door for ‘trick or treat’.

To avoid a pantry full of problem food, think of the entire street and neighbourhood as the lolly-store on Halloween. Therefore you don’t need to have an endless choice of different sweets in the basket of treats. Be sensible and only buy one bag or pre-wrapped lollies or candies to give out if you want to give lollies. The less variety, the better. Variety increases risk of over-indulgence.

But Halloween food treats don’t have to be candies and lollies.

Some easy, healthier alternatives include:

  • snack-size bags of coloured or plain popcorn
  • seasonal fruits
  • mini-packs of dried fruit
  • snack bags of pretzel shapes
  • fruit juice boxes
  • small tubs of preserved fruit
  • frozen fruit juice sticks

Never feel awkward or bad about fresh or dried fruit treats because for some children, fruit is a treat that they rarely get at home.

Some children are on special diets due to diabetes or allergies and food intolerances, so consider what treats to have for these kids on Halloween. Non-food treats make it easier and safer.

Best of all, start thinking beyond food treats on Halloween for all kids and leave it to the neighbours to add sweet candies and lollies to the treat bags.

What can you have in the treat basket instead of food on Halloween?

A few good inexpensive non-food treats for young ones on Halloween include:

  • balloons
  • sparklers (not in high fire risk areas) 
  • leftover international coins from your travels
  • curious hand-made origami shapes
  • paper planes (pattern or folded)
  • face and hair sparkle dust for a magic sprinkle
  • pencils, crayons, pens
  • crazy rubbers (erasers)
  • crayons
  • stickers
  • glow sticks

Still stuck for ideas? Go to a cheap shop and grab a bag of party favours.

What to do when your kids arrive home with bags stuffed full of lollies?

You’ve got two clear choices.

  1. Let them eat the lot at once and with a bit of luck the may feel unwell with a tummy ache afterwards, which might (but probably not) put them off sweets for some time
  2. Suggest they have a small amount and put the rest of the bag aside for other days.

My thoughts? Let them choose.

The dentist may prefer them to eat all the lollies at once, choice 1, because grazing on sweet foods over hours or days is far worse for teeth than one big sugar feast. Can you get Halloween toothbrushes to encourage the kids to brush their teeth after eating lollies?

If they choose 2, put the bag into a container that’s not see-through and out of reach of the littlest one's hands. "What you don’t see doesn’t tempt you so easily" applies to little ones and adults.

Out of sight, out of mind means that both you and the kids have a small but better chance of forgetting the lolly hoard exists.

A bag in plain sight or a see-through, clear-view bottle or jar full of lollies is a guaranteed way to trip both you and the kids into eating them more often.

By the way, if visiting little monsters didn’t thin out your stockpile of lollies and sweets, dispose of the pile in the bin rather than have the lollies lure you into a feast that you may regret.

What are your thoughts on Halloween?

Is this a celebration that you worry about? How do you manage the sugar overload for both you and the little monsters? What would you suggest in place of candies and lollies for the visiting kids?

Email me with your thoughts and ideas to add to this list for Halloween.

Halloween. Love it or not, it looks like it’s here to stay.