I get a lot of questions about how we handle Halloween at our house. How do we celebrate a holiday synonymous with toxic chemicals and high fructose corn syrup parading themselves as food products? What we do isn’t the norm, that’s for sure. But if you ask me, anyone who has been convinced that toxic junk candy should be considered a food product got tricked instead of treated! How to celebrate Halloween is a particularly sticky issue for anyone with children. We don’t want our kids to miss out on the joys we remember as a kid or feel like an outcast among their tiny peers who are all stuffing their faces with whatever treat they pull next from the mighty candy bowl. So how do we handle it? How do we pull ourselves out of the marketing scam designed to get us to buy giant bags of Nestle and Hershey and Mars bars and all the other companies that push this stuff out and still celebrate the magic and creativity that makes Halloween such a blast? With a little imagination and some good sense, this night can easily be transformed into something healthy and fun for everyone.
Adults versus Parents/Kids
For adults, Halloween tends to center around candy bowls at the office, leftover trick-or-treat candy, and parties serving sugary alcoholic drinks with crazy gory names like “the blood sucker” “bloody brain shooter”, “zombie sunrise” or “cemetery punch”. For those of us with children, we have to take into account our kids’ social lives, the pressure of letting them “live a little” and being faced with all their candy temptations when they return with their treats in tow. It may seem like a major challenge, but there are some easy solutions for everyone from the mother of a brood of 6 trying to create a magical night for the kiddos to the single guy/gal just looking to put on a sexy costume and get their drink on.
When it comes to the office candy bowl, take a second before you dig your paws in…odds are your coworkers brought that candy in one of 3 scenarios:
- They bought the candy on discount the day after Halloween [or worse BEFORE Halloween] and they’re looking for validation and to stuff their faces in solidarity (misery loves company and a dirty mirror reflects no shame)- in which case do you really want to be a part of their fall from grace? Don’t let them derail your efforts to stay away from cheap chemicals full of empty calories masquerading as food.
- They had leftover trick-or-treat candy and they put it in the kitchen or break room at work. They are trying to get it out of their house and give it away so THEY don’t eat it. In which case, do you really want to take the garbage food that someone else is throwing out so they don’t give in? Don’t let their good instinct be an excuse for your downfall.
- They had leftover trick-or-treat candy and they brought it to work so they could keep eating it all day long and they’re once again trying to share the misery and validate their binge. Refer back to #1, and don’t let them derail your good decisions.
**Nourished and Grounded secret… in years past at the office I have actually taken handfuls of candy from the bowl and when no one is around I’ve dumped it into the trash. Judge me if you will, but sometimes a little guerilla warfare goes a long way towards helping people avoid toxins.**
But what about that big Halloween bash?
Are we supposed to hide away from the world and tell our friends we’ll see them tomorrow, assuming the zombies don’t get us? Not at all! This is a time when adults get to tap into their imagination, play and pretend (we get SO little of that when we grow up, and it’s such a shame).
Just eat a nourishing meal before you go to the party so you won’t be tempted by whatever the host puts out to keep the hordes of zombie partiers at bay. If you’re on the run, pack some trail mix, a package of olives, some wild canned salmon, some beef jerky, whatever floats your boat, and snack on it on your way to the shindig. If the party is at the home of someone you know well, offer to bring some extra appetizers. Whip up some deviled eggs, make some roasted spiced nuts, bring some cut veggies and baba ganoush, or make a simple low-sugar pumpkin pie or almond flour cookies. Then you are guaranteed to have at least one or two items on the spread that won’t derail your good health and leave you feeling like a bus hit you in the morning.
If you are going to imbibe, have a glass of red wine or a hard liquor with a sugar-free mixer and a twist of lime instead of chugging back glutinous beer (sorry fellas!) or those sugary ghoulish drinks. Staying away from too much alcohol will also keep you from slipping into that dangerous zone of lack of inhibition where everything resembling food somehow finds its way onto your plate and into your mouth. Also, you may want to tag my post on how to cure a hangover for the morning after to help get you running on all cylinders again.
But I’ve got kids, how do I keep them away from the candy?
I understand parents really struggle with this one because they don’t want their children to feel like they’re missing out. But if you put something fun and healthy in your kid’s face he won’t really understand what it is he might be missing. Make the experience what they remember, not how many candy bars they were able to score in their old pillow case. One of the best solutions is to get together with the other parents and host a party with a nourishing meal, some gluten-free treats, some fun decorations and some gory Halloween activities. Walking around the neighborhood in a clown suit won’t seem nearly as fun as a party with their BFFs. You have a chance to help shape how your children relate to food and how they connect food to social events (hint: you don’t have to tie crappy food to fond memories!)
You can talk to your neighbors and agree that you’ll only give out healthy treats or non-food items (see below for more on this topic). If your kids are young enough that you are walking them around, it’s super easy to direct your kids to the approved houses and avoid those that you haven’t been able to reach or who don’t honor your suggestion.
If you do decide to let the kids fill their bag with whatever the night has to offer, or they’re too big to be taken house to house by mom and dad (how embarrassing!) or they trick or treat at a friend’s house, you can offer them a candy purchase/exchange. Let them trade in their candy for something better. You know what works for your kids, so fill in the blank…coupons for extra tv time or extra control of the remote? A new pair of shoes? A horseback riding lesson? A new action figure? A new ap for their iphone? There’s something those kids want more than a tootsie roll, I guarantee it. Get creative and see how easily they fork over the sugar.
Also, let’s be honest, how much of that trick-or-treating is really for you to score some candy from them when they’re asleep? If you want to be bad and punish yourself there will be plenty of opportunities from the half-off grocery store candy and the work candy bowls you’ll be exposed to. Do what you gotta do if you really want a sugar fix and keep your kids out of it.
If you and the kids do indulge, make sure you pick only your absolute favorites and really saver and appreciate them, don’t just stuff anything that comes across your table into your mouth. Alternatively, you can find a Paleo-friendly, gluten-free healthier option.
Some of these are still pretty high in sugar (albeit natural sweeteners) and so should only be eaten in moderation, but there are plenty of recipes that can recreate your favorite treats without preservatives, dyes and high fructose corn syrup in them and you still get all the same goodness out of it. Don’t believe me, here are a few tasty examples:
What am I supposed to give the trick-or-treaters, an apple? My house will be egged for sure!
Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to become the old fart at the end of the street who never gives out candy to trick-or-treaters, or worse, gives everyone an apple. Not to worry, you don’t need to get egged or TP’d to make the world a more nourished place. Here’s what we give out every year and we see a LOT of happy faces when we bring out the bowl:
- Rubber bouncing balls
- Mini crayon packs
- Cheapo mini sunglasses from the party store (even the older kids asked for these)
- Fun eraser tops
- Tiny hair bows for the little ladies
- For the older kids (and maybe a little treat for ourselves) we get a bag or two of individually wrapped dove dark chocolate bites.
Challenge yourself this Halloween to do something good for your body, and spread the joy of good health and holiday cheer to those around you. Have a happy, healthy Halloween everyone, and may you remain nourished and grounded!
Have you converted one of your favorite childhood treats into a more nourishing recipe? What’s your favorite non-food treat to give out to trick-or-treaters? What do your kids like more than candy? Let us know!