Use Halloween Candy to Teach Children About Healthy Eating Habits

Original article from the Washington Post

Here are suggestions on how to let your children enjoy the treats of Halloween without going overboard.

Have candy after meals and with snacks

According to dietitian and family therapist Ellyn Satter, author of “Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense,” it’s fine to let kids have a few pieces of candy a day, either as dessert after a meal or as a sit-down snack. You can include a piece of candy in their lunch if they want.

Keep candy in a tall kitchen cupboard

Out of sight, out of mind. This holds true for kids and adults when it comes to food. Don’t let kids keep candy or other food in their rooms. Food stays in the kitchen, and the less healthy options should be hidden in a cupboard, not out on the counter for all to see (and grab mindlessly).

Let them pick their favorites and ‘make it worth it’

Have your kids pick out the candy they love and give away the rest. Learning to choose treats you really enjoy is an important part of healthy eating. You want your kids to savor and enjoy the treats they love rather than go for volume and not really take pleasure in what they’re eating.

Focus on healthy living, not weight

When you talk about food with your kids, focus on making healthy choices rather than controlling weight. Research suggests that commenting on children’s weight can increase the likelihood of unhealthy dieting as well as binge eating and other eating disorders.

Use Halloween as a growth opportunity for the family

Think about how you want your family to approach food and treats, and consider the example you’re setting with your eating habits. Do your kids see you making your way to the candy bowl every night? Practice the same balanced food habits you want your kids to have as adults. I’m willing to bet you’ll all be healthier and happier as a result.

Halloween Health

Don’t let your health get tricked this Halloween! Here are a few ways to stay safe and healthy.

1. Get Moving

Carve out time to be active this Halloween – between get-togethers and trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. Take a walk and do some weight training to help you feel good!

Regular physical activity can help control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers, improve mental health and mood, and increase your chance of living longer.

2. Eat Well

Don’t spend this Halloween filling up on junk food and sweets. Give yourself and your guests healthier choices and nutritious treats.

Fruits and vegetables are part of a well-balanced and healthy eating plan. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.

3. Keep Your Bite Healthy

Keep Halloween candy at bay. Care for teeth the right way – brush with a fluoride toothpaste each and every day.

Tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

4. Play it Safe

Take precautions to stay safe while trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Watch out for cars, use reflective gear, walk with a group, and carry a flash light.

Check out CDC’s Injury Center for tips to stay safe at home, on the road, and at play.

5. Scare Away the Flu and Colds

Don’t get spooked by the flu. Wash your hands frequently and get a flu vaccine, too!

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. Get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones and learn about good health habitsthat can help stop germs.

6. Don’t Be a Zombie

Sleep is important– even on Halloween! Adults need 7-8 hours each night. It’s best for staying healthy and helping the disease fight!

Insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk for the development of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Healthy Halloween Treats

While October reminds some of apple picking, pumpkin-flavored treats and fall colors, for others, it’s the last day of October that they think about the most – Halloween! Halloween is one of the biggest candy consumption days of the year. According to a USA Today article, almost every child in the U.S. will have candy on Halloween, compared to 24% of adults and kids who have candy on a typical day. Plus, 4% of all candy consumed in the U.S. is consumed on Halloween! That is SCARY (pun intended)!

Even if you choose to partake in the candy consumption on Halloween this year, here are some alternatives you can consider when the little superheroes, princesses, Pokémon and pirates show up at your door:

Bubbles Bouncy balls
Glow sticks/necklaces Mini nail polish
Stickers Sugar-free gum
Sticky hands Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars
Temporary tattoos Plastic vampire fangs
Mini crayon packs Healthier food options such as 100% juice boxes, pretzels, popcorn, string cheese or Goldfish.
Mini Play-Doh Mini Slinky® toys

Candy-free School Valentine Pledge

Valentine’s Day is prac­ti­cally syn­ony­mous with pink hearts, red roses and—if you have school-age kids—back­packs stuffed with candy.

Would you like to help keep Valentine’s candy out of school this year? Take the Candy-free School Valen­tine Pledge–and encour­age other par­ents, your child’s teacher, your school prin­ci­pal and/or your PTA to join you!

I, _____________________________, pledge to do my part in keening candy out of the classroom this Valentine’s Day.

If you’re a par­ent, here’s what you can do:

  • Send a candy-free Valen­tine to school with your child
  • Talk to other par­ents, your child’s teacher and/or your school prin­ci­pal about hav­ing a candy-free school Valentine’s Day
  • Ask to dis­trib­ute a list of candy-free Valen­tine ideas to par­ents and teachers
  • Share the Candy-free School Valen­tine Pledge at school and on social media

If you’re a teacher or school administrator, here’s what you can do:

  • Encour­age stu­dents and par­ents to send candy-free Valen­tines to school
  • Dis­trib­ute a list of candy-free Valen­tine ideas to par­ents and teachers
  • Share the Candy-free School Valen­tine Pledge at school and on social media

For more information on how to make your child’s Valentine’s Day celebration healthier, including a sample email to write to your child’s school, visit School Bites.

Donate Halloween Candy to a Good Cause

Wondering what to do with all that Halloween candy?  Donate it to a good cause!

Operation ShoeboxOperation shoebox

Operation Shoebox was founded in 2003 by a Central Florida military mom, when five of her children, and two son’s in law,  were deployed around the world.  Mary Harper learned from her kids that troops didn’t receive many care packages or mail. She rolled up her sleeves and started an informal care package project out of her living room.

While troops receive the very basic necessities like meals and shelter from the U.S. military, Harper realized the need to boost morale with practical tokens of kindness in the form of snacks, personal care items, entertainment and thank-you notes to men and women stationed around the world.

Click here to learn how you can donate your Halloween candy to Operation Shoebox

Operation Gratitude and Halloween Candy Buy Back


Operation Gratitude sends more than 100,000 care packages annually to U.S. troops stationed in overseas and to their children left behind, as well as veterans. The organization’s mission is simple: to put a smile on soldiers’ faces. Operation Gratitude accepts donations of unopened candy, and asks that you separate and mark “chocolate” versus “non-chocolate” packages. The website contains other important shipping info, and kids are encouraged to include letters and pictures, too. Worried you won’t get it together to send the candy by the mid-November deadline? Then consider the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which benefits Operation Gratitude. Go to the website to search for a participating dentist near you who will accept candy in exchange for toothbrushes, coupons and sometimes cash. Important note: It’s imperative that you call ahead. Many dentists set certain buy back rules, like a maximum amount of candy or specific drop-off hours. Get the details before you go!


Ronald RMH-Stacked-Logo-Blk-RedMcDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House helps keep severely ill kids and their parents together during treatment. After Halloween, most locations accept donations of unopened candy for the families being served. You can search for your local chapter on the website but call ahead to find out the rules for dropping off candy.


Additional Options

Finally, don’t forget about your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food pantry, or retirement or nursing home. Many take donations of unopened candy for residents and guests. It’s worth calling to find out if they accept treats, which your kids can deliver with a note and a non-cavity-filled smile