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Healthy Halloween Fun

Healthy_Halloween_snacks_pic_revisedBy Deirdre Imus, September 29
Fall is arguably the most exciting time of year, every year. For some, it’s the increasingly chilly air, gorgeous scenery, and juicy apples, followed by a smattering of beloved holidays celebrated with family and friends. For others, it’s all about one special day in particular.

From what to be and how to act to where to trick-or-treat and which party or parade to attend, Halloween is tops for kids young and old, and for many adults too. And why not? It’s silly, sure, but it’s an opportunity to pretend, for just one day, to be someone or something else, whether spectacular, silly, or straightforward. It fosters creativity, and encourages imagination.

Have fun with your kids, but be mindful and make sure whatever costumes, makeup, or hair products your children (or you) use to enhance Halloween style are free of the toxins that can make everyone sick, and that can exacerbate allergies and cause other health concerns. Ingredients to avoid include: unhealthy plastics containing lead and PVCs; phthalates; parabens; aluminum; and artificial colors and fragrances. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental toxins because they’re not little adults. Pound for pound of body weight, they take in more air, water and food than adults. They also have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, which is of particular concern with Halloween costumes.

Opt for costumes made from natural fibers, or be even more sustainable and throw together an outfit from supplies you’ve already got in the house. Search for creative DIY costume ideas online, many of which promote the use of recycled materials. Boxes, craft paper, nontoxic paints, vintage clothing and accessories can all be used to create one-of-a-kind costumes. When making costumes, follow common-sense, age-appropriate safety precautions. The American Academy of Pediatrics has Safe Halloween Guidelines.

Many middle and high school students would rather shop with their friends, and may find a local thrift shop as a useful resource. It can be a fun, artistic, and low-cost way to approach the holiday while also giving profits right back to charity. Kids of any age can also swap costumes with other families, or pass down costumes to younger family members to ensure they are re-used and enjoyed long after the holiday passes. Think outside the box, and encourage your kids to participate in the process.

There is much to love about Halloween, but unfortunately there is one major downside. Halloween’s most beloved, most famous tradition involves collecting as much sugary, processed candy as possible and then gorging on it – that night, and the next, and probably for the entire subsequent week. It can be difficult to dissuade young kids of the notion that they are entitled to these so-called “treats,” especially when their friends are doing the same.

Talk to your kids beforehand about what and how much candy they are allowed, and pick a date post-Halloween when it all gets thrown out. Many dentists participate in the Halloween Candy Buyback program, which offers kids a certain amount of money (usually around one dollar per pound) in exchange for uneaten Halloween candy. The candy is then shipped in care packages to U.S. troops overseas, as part of Operation Gratitude.

Have healthy snacks on hand to distribute at your own home, such as individually wrapped dark chocolate squares, or organic homemade cookies. The website recommends individual honey sticks, Annie’s Fruit Snacks (made without artificial dyes or other nasty stuff), or fruit leather made from 100 percent real fruit. Another fan favorite, especially among little kids, is stickers! They’re easy to distribute, easy on the wallet, and easy on your conscience.  Also check out these Healthy Alternatives For Halloween Fun.

Halloween can be scary enough without tacking added health dangers on top. Seize the opportunity to start new and treasured traditions with your kids on this fun and favored holiday, and show them that making healthy, responsible choices can be a whole lot of fun & scary too!



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