Every year on Halloween, my grandmother would make a dreaded meal: liver and onions. Before my mom and her sisters could go trick-or-treating, they had to choke down that dinner. I think it was Grandma’s attempt at balancing out all the candy she knew would be coming home later that night.
I’m not willing to cook liver, but I do worry about my kids having too much sugar. According to Forbes magazine, Americans will spend over $2 billion on Halloween candy this year. As childhood obesity continues to be a concern, conditions like diabetes require strict diets and dentists warn about cavities. How are families supposed to balance the traditional fun of Halloween with healthy lifestyles?
Here are some ideas for handling the candy crisis without being the meanest mom on the block:
Set up a little “store” at home, using candy as barter for items like holiday pencils, bouncy balls, puzzles and gum.
Establish one night as a candy free-for-all and then have “The Great Pumpkin” come take the rest away. That’s what my friend Pam does for her four kids and so far, no complaints.
Some dentists and orthodontists will buy your child’s sack of loot, paying by weight. Ask around to see if yours follows suit.
Freeze the chocolate candy to dole out over several months or to use in baking.
When your kids come back to your house, have them trick-or-treat at your door a final time. Instead of giving candy, trade them a new toy or book for the candy they’ve already collected.
My friend Andrea lets her kids pick out their favorites from the candy haul, then sends the rest off to work with Dad.
Dentist and father of six Doug Brower recommends eating all the candy at once, rather than spreading it out and letting sugar sit on the teeth for a long time.
Organize a neighborhood Halloween activity instead of trick-or-treating. A movie night, games or even a scaven- ger hunt still gives you the chance to dress up and socialize without focusing on candy.
Let the kids choose a certain amount to keep, then take the rest to a local shelter. Make sure to involve the whole family.
Whatever you do, remember the memories you have of Halloween from your own childhood. The fun was in dressing up and seeing friends—not so much the candy. You can have a great holiday and make healthier traditions for your family without making too big a deal about sugar. After all, Halloween comes around just once a year.
Eliana Osborn is a freelance writer based in Arizona.