Every Halloween, children of all ages anticipate dressing up in costume and trick-or-treating around their neighborhood for a deluge of sugar-filled candies. For parents, Halloween can be a challenging time to reinforce healthy behaviors.

Ideally, you should avoid making food the main focus of Halloween. It’s best to shift the focus to all of the fun activities, such as costume competitions, pumpkin carving, races and parades.

There are several ways you can make Halloween a healthier time of the year for children, including:

  • Plan ahead to prevent a meltdown. Discuss separating out your child’s favorite candy ahead of time and creating an exchange system based on points for pieces of candy that kids can earn.
  • Consider donating some treats. Consider donating some candy to a community program or troops overseas. Involve your child in deciding where to donate it.
  • Moderation and balance. Allow children to indulge in a few pieces of candy on Halloween and teach them moderation by limiting the amount of treats they can eat per day.
  • Explain why. Educate children on why moderation is important and how over-indulging can lead to upset stomachs and toothaches.
  • Double check treats. It’s imperative that parents check for any unopened candy and examine all of the treats for choking hazards and tampering before children are allowed to eat them. If any candy is faded, torn, or unwrapped, parents should throw the treats away.
  • Hand out a healthier treat. Trade out candy that is high in sugar with healthier alternatives such as animal crackers, trail mix, pretzels or sugar-free candy. Another alternative is to give children party favors, fake teeth or fingernails, temporary tattoos or stickers if you want to avoid handing out candy completely.
  • Add some exercise. If you’re hosting a party, plan exercise-related activities, such as a scavenger hunt, and give out exercise-related prizes like jump ropes or sidewalk chalk. Also, try serving healthy alternatives to your guests such as cheese eyeballs, spicy pumpkin seeds or black bean cat crudités.
  • Bring healthier alternatives. School celebrations or parties present a great opportunity for parents to bring in healthy snacks to balance out all of the candy. There are a lot of fun snacks you can make with fruits and veggies such as carrot-finger food and apple bites.


Megan Barna, MS, RD, is an outpatient dietitian at Children's National in Washington, D.C.

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