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The Secret to Having a Healthy Halloween

We’re about a week out, and people are getting ready for Halloween.


Trick-or-Treat ideas.

And of course…the food.

What To Do About All That Halloween Candy

Must Halloween be an all-out sugar fest for our kids?

We have Halloween candy around until the summer parade candy takes over. But I still dread the onslaught of unknown sugar that comes with October 31st.

Is there a better way?

What options does a “real food” household have for trick-or-treating?

RELATED: Why should we avoid sugar?

When we first moved into a real house in a neighborhood, I was pretty excited about hosting trick-or-treaters. Even then I didn’t want to contribute to the sugar fest, so I went to a local novelty store and bought small toys in bulk: bouncy balls, fake fangs, gooey balls, witches’ fingers, toy boats, and more.

The Secret to Having a Healthy Halloween: Creative Ideas and Solutions

I spent about twenty-five bucks ($13 of which was the huge bag of bouncy balls that I’ll still have when I’m a senior citizen). Turns out our neighborhood doesn’t host a big trick-or-treating crowd. I was so disappointed that first year!

Halloween Candy Vs. Non-Food Treats

I’m an anti-materialist, too, and I have a healthy fear of “things” coming into our house. We’re running out of places to put “things”, so I’d rather not acquire more than what I need (or really, really want!).

My kids both get a lot of toys as gifts from family members, and I wasn’t thrilled about contributing to other folks’ “junk piles”…BUT I decided “things” that won’t hurt anyone’s health are better than candy.

Easy Healthy Halloween Party Ideas

Simple Healthy Halloween Party Food

If you happen to be able to be in charge of a school Halloween party and want healthy food options, I can totally cover you. Read all about the healthy Halloween party and food I organized last year for a second-grade classroom, complete with a full menu and game instructions, and be sure to put it on your Halloween or fall Pinterest board – click HERE for an easy repin.

If you’re not Christian and could care less about the next section, skip down this page for “Sweet-less Trick-or-Treat” ideas!

The History of Trick-or-Treating

I enjoyed discovering the following in an old book my cousin found in our Busia’s (Polish grandma’s) attic, The Year and our Children: Planning the Family Activities for Christian Feasts and Seasons by Mary Reed Newland:

Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a “soul cake” in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Soul cakes, a form of shortbread… became more important for the beggars than prayers for the dead,  it is said. Florence Berger tells in her Cooking for Christ a legend of a zealous cook who vowed she wold invent soul cakes to remind them of eternity at every bite. So she cut a hole in the middle and dropped it in hot fat, and lo — a doughnut. Circle that it is, it suggests the never-ending of eternity. Truth or legend, it serves a good purpose at Halloween.


The refrains sung at the door varied from “a soul cake, a soul cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake,” to the later:

Soul, soul, an apple or two,
If you haven’t an apple, a pear will do,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for the Man Who made us all.

[People put on pantomimes and dramas to remind people of the] reality of life after death and the means to attain it. it is probably from these that the custom of masquerading on Halloween had its beginning. The folly of a life of selfishness would be the message pantomimed by the damned; the torment of waiting, the message of the souls from Purgatory; the delights of the beatific vision, the message of he Heavensent. Together they warned the living to heed the means of salvation before it was too late. Doubtless the presence of goblins and witches and cats (ancient symbols of the devil) were remnants of pagan times bespeaking to Christians of spirits loosed from hell to keep track of their own and herd them back at cockcrow.

I’m not about to make homemade doughnuts to feed the neighborhood, so for me, I’m sticking with my toy basket. Now let’s talk about what we do with the flow of Halloween candy coming IN, while allowing the excitement that comes along with Halloween.

Having a Balanced Healthy Halloween

Can’t see the video? Watch here on YouTube!

Building Healthy Habits On Halloween

There’s a fine line of balance when it comes to kids and sugar. Science shows that when we restrict a certain food the kids will push back at some point, sometimes with big consequences.

I see an opportunity on Halloween. It’s a good chance to let your kids eat all the candy and see how they feel. Take the opportunity to talk about whether their mood, digestion, or mental clarity is affected by that much sugar and artificial colors and flavors. 

Rather than set strict rules and limits, use the opportunity to teach them how to have moderation and healthy habits on their own.

What Do You Do With Halloween Candy in a Real Food Family?

Our dessert strategy changes a bit every few years as I learn more. At this point, it’s most important for me to make sure my kids are learning how to make healthy decisions for themselves. I can’t be over their shoulder telling them how many pieces of candy they can have forever!

With upper elementary-aged kids and up I like to ask them how many pieces of candy they think would be good for them to consume. I let them decide for that day. 

The day after Halloween, we usually allow 2 “desserts” instead of 1 and then the candy goes onto a tray somewhere out of the way.

After a month, the kids each need to add their candy to their personal candy box. (We use nut containers from Costco.) All their candy needs to fit in their box and anything else gets given or thrown away.

kids trick-or-treating

Non-Candy Halloween Treat Ideas

Time to chime in! What ideas do you have to help people avoid being a candy supplier to the neighborhood kids? How do you manage your own kids and their trick-or-treating loot?

I asked this question on Twitter and Facebook and got some good ideas to start you off, beginning with my own:

  1. Little raisin boxes or natural fruit snacks (my S-I-L always gets them for my son from Trader Joe’s)
  2. Holy cards/saint cards (for the bold)
  3. Trading cards (baseball, what’s that anime one?)
  4. Little soaps (not anti-bacterial!)
  5. Pencils, erasers, crayons (bought at the back-to-school sales, of course)
  6. Snack-packs of Goldfish or something else relatively not-un-healthy (better than HFCS or white sugar)
  7. Kids love a few coins!
  8. Playdough (maybe even homemade!)
  9. Activity books and crayons

Fancy Treats for Halloween

If you have a neighborhood like the one I grew up in, you might do special treat bags for the neighborhood kids. We didn’t get many trick-or-treaters, so my mom always bought a full-size candy bar for the local kiddos. If you’re willing to spend a little more time or money on your visiting ghouls, here are some ideas (homemade food is probably frowned upon unless you know the giver, right?):

  • Salted, spiced nuts
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • @rcwant2be suggested Lara bars (pricey, but they’re so good!)
  • @LoverHealthFood recommended @yummololaberry ‘s chocolate fudge balls
  • Kettle Corn or Popcorn Balls
How about minimally sweet popcorn balls . . . there’s a recipe on allrecipes for kettle corn that only uses about a tablespoon of sugar and it works great! (The recipe I found has 1/4 cup, but I bet you could cut it. Of course, use melted butter or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil!)  Less sweet than caramel corn or popcorn balls (though popcorn balls that include peanut butter are pretty good too!)

Crispy Pumpkin Seeds for Halloween Snacks

Crispy Pumpkin Seeds

After you carve the pumpkin (or bake pie pumpkins or even spaghetti squash or butternut squash, be sure to read up on how to make pumpkin seeds and know that you can definitely soak and dehydrate them just like other nuts and seeds. Click through for all my tricks, including how to make the job wait for you when you just don’t have time to roast pumpkin seeds.

Healthy Halloween Dinner

spooky ghost shepherds pie for halloween

It’s made of real food, cute as all get-out, and can be made in advance to put in the oven quickly – the perfect meal for Halloween when you have to be getting out to trick-or-treat by a normal dinnertime hour. Shepherd’s Pie is a very popular recipe here at KS (and here at the Kimball house too), and the spooky version is just right for October 31.

Our tradition in the last several years has been to eat a hearty bowl of chili before heading out. The key is that you want to fill your kiddos up with protein and fat to mitigate the blood sugar spike that’s coming. 

Non-Toxic Face Paint and Washing Up

face painting

And finally, if your little clown or ghoul will be wearing face paint, you’ll love this real-food-based super simple tip for getting facepaint off without tears (or toxins).

If you want to start the face painting process without toxins too, we got to test out Elegant Minerals brand of face paints – they’re great, and the ingredients are not only actually listed, but quite nicely non-toxic, too. (a relief!)

What are your strategies for a healthy Halloween?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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