Don’t share your sugar! Top tips for a healthier Halloween

Children dressed up for Halloween

Worried about bucketloads of sugar at Halloween? The spooky season can mean treat overload, but we pull out a few tricks to help you have a healthy Halloween – and they work for the rest of the year too!

Sometimes the hardest treats to resist are the ones given to us by other people! We know that people are just being kind or generous – but these shared sugars can really add up when there are so many occasions to celebrate.

Sharing and celebrating with other people – whether it’s a family occasion, a birthday gathering in the office or a night out at the cinema – make us feel good. But these celebrations can make it really hard to stick to healthy eating habits, which is so important because we know that eating a good diet and being a healthy weight can help to protect us against many different cancers.

Taking a more mindful approach to celebrations – which doesn’t mean saying no to everything but does mean recognising the nutritional value of the food and drink you eat and share – can mean happier, healthier celebrations.

So here are our tips on how to avoid shared sugar – starting with Halloween.

Halloween treats

The 31st of October is a night to bring fear into any parent’s mind. Many parents are shocked by the volume of sweets that children bring home from an evening of trick or treating. But there are ways to limit the sugar:

  • If you’re offering treats, offer 1 per child. Threaten children with goblins, ghosts and other horrors if they take more.
  • Offer alternative treats such as fruit dipped in chocolate, packets of dried fruit, or witches brew (warm apple juice). Or just tap water with a toy spider at the bottom of the glass.
  • Offer non-edible treats (read on for ideas).
  • If all else fails, hide the sweets on a top shelf. The children will probably have forgotten about them by Christmas.

If you’re having a Halloween gathering, offer healthy warm food such as:

Cauliflower cheese monsters | Oozing baked brains | Stuffed mushroom cat faces | Petrifying pizzas

> Check out all our sping-tingling Halloween recipes

Children’s parties

If you’re hosting a children’s party – you deserve a medal! Remember, children are often less excitable if they’re not full of sugar, so keep treats during the party to a minimum. For party bags, there are lots of fun things to put in them instead of sweets. If you’re including a piece of birthday cake, don’t feel obliged to put loads of sweets in as well – most parents will thank you for it!

Other ideas (for party game prizes and for party bags) include:

  • Stationery (rubbers, pen toppers, rulers, pencils, notepads)
  • Seeds (wild flower or vegetable seeds scrunched up in tissue paper – you could even plant some during the party that children can take home in a yoghurt pot)
  • Balloons, bubbles, bouncy balls, keyrings
  • Stickers, transfers or cards (eg Match Attax, Pokemon, Lego)
  • Book or soft toy lucky dip
  • Bubble bath, bath bombs, soap, pretty travel tissues
  • Costume jewellery, hairclips, bracelets or necklaces (these can be made with beads at the party)

Birthdays in the office

It’s lovely to mark special occasions with your colleagues. But it doesn’t have to involve cake!

At the start of the year, simply ask people if they want cake or just a card. If people opt for “just” a card, respect their wishes – and make it extra special with drawings, poems and jokes, rather than just a “happy birthday”.

If people do want to share a cake, check the portion sizes. If a cake serves 10 people, don’t share it among 5!

> More on portion sizes

Cinema snacks

Most food and drink on offer at the cinema is oversized and overpriced. The healthiest option is to take your own: chopped fruit or vegetables (try not to crunch during the quiet bits!), plain popcorn, homemade scones, flapjacks or muffins are all a good choice.

If you do want to buy snacks at the cinema, keep the calories down by sharing a treat, going small and choosing a diet soft drink or – even better – taking your own bottle of water. And be aware that the portion sizes are normally designed for adults.

Try to eat before you go – and choose a short film!

Family get-togethers

Nobody likes food waste but it can be really hard to know how much people are going to eat. Try asking different people to contribute different bits of the meal, so you don’t end up with too much of any one thing. You could also ask people to bring items that will freeze or containers to share out leftovers (or use a food sharing app such as Olio). That way, you won’t feel obliged to eat up all the leftovers yourself.

> Check out all our healthy leftovers recipes

We have lots of healthy dessert ideas – but if you want to keep it simple, why not melt some dark chocolate (aim for 4 cubes per person), chop up seasonal fruit and give everyone a cocktail stick for a DIY family fondue?

Send us your tips

Have you got any good healthy tips for children’s parties, Christmas or Halloween? Send them to us and they could feature in our e-news or on social!