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.
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.
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:
If your children do trick-or-treat, agree to exchange their candy haul for a non-food reward.
Focus on keeping our children safe and protecting their future health. More information on keeping your children healthy can be found in my book Disease-Proof Your Child.
The holiday season is a time for us to celebrate our family’s special bond and enjoy life in healthy ways. Have a happy and healthy Halloween.
. 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.