Long before the pandemic made the idea of trick-or-treating a serious safety issue, my wife Lisa and I found the Halloween-candy connection the scariest part of the holiday. The idea of a children’s holiday focused on candy is difficult to navigate when you’re trying to instill healthy habits in your kids. Parents who recognize the importance of feeding children healthfully face an uphill battle because junk food is the norm.
The Halloween holiday trap
Many holidays are associated with unhealthy foods that have become enshrined in our traditions. Just think of the way most families celebrate Thanksgiving: gorging on turkey, potatoes and stuffing, desserts and more. In popular culture, it’s impossible to imagine New Year’s Eve without champagne, Fourth of July without hot dogs and so on.
But the effort of establishing healthy behaviors in children is worthwhile. Excessive sugar, candy, or junk food consumption in young children is associated with ADHD,1, 2 decreased intelligence,3 and even later life violence.4 Childhood diets also have a strong influence on adult cancers – children’s growing cells are formed by the foods that they eat.5-7
So we decided that our house would be the one that gave out treats that had nothing to do with candy. At the Fuhrman house, the visiting ghouls and goblins received fun items: glow sticks, mini Play Doh containers, paddle ball games, whistles (sorry, parents!) or Halloween-themed bookmarks.
Beat the sweets – with fall fun
There are plenty of other ways to get in the spirit of the holiday – even if this year, it means staying at home. Corn mazes, haunted houses, and hayrides may not be happening this year.
But you can still spend time having fun together: laughter and bonding with loved ones are just as important to your health as eating well.
This year, you can still celebrate the holiday – safely! – while steering clear of dangerous foods. Try some fun activities:
Dress up in costume
Watch a scary movie
Have a dance party in the living room with a Halloween playlist
Carve a pumpkin
Tell ghost stories with friends over Zoom (complete with flashlights and spooky music!)
Play a board game
Go on a hike in the crisp fall weather
Make a healthful dessert, like an apple pie or nice cream
If your children do trick-or-treat, agree to exchange their candy haul for a non-food reward.
. Farsad-Naeimi A, Asjodi F, Omidian M, et al. Sugar consumption, sugar sweetened beverages and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Complement Ther Med 2020, 53:102512.
2. Johnson RJ, Gold MS, Johnson DR, et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: is it time to reappraise the role of sugar consumption?Postgrad Med 2011, 123:39-49.
3. Northstone K, Joinson C, Emmett P, et al. Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study.J Epidemiol Community Health 2012, 66:624-628.
4. Moore SC, Carter LM, van Goozen S. Confectionery consumption in childhood and adult violence.Br J Psychiatry 2009, 195:366-367.
5. Maynard M, Gunnell D, Emmett P, et al. Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort.J Epidemiol Community Health 2003, 57:218-225.
6. Frazier AL, Li L, Cho E, et al. Adolescent diet and risk of breast cancer.Cancer Causes Control 2004, 15:73-82.
7. Michels KB, Rosner BA, Chumlea WC, et al. Preschool diet and adult risk of breast cancer.Int J Cancer 2006,118:749-754.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 30 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
*There is no guarantee of specific results.Results can vary. All material provided on the DrFuhrman.com website is provided for informational or educational purposes only.
Consult a physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.