How to Trick the Kiddos into Curbing their Treat Intake

♫ This is Halloween. This is Halloween. This is Halloween. ♫

Well…as of tomorrow, anyway.

This bewitching occasion for both the young and young-at-heart is marked by ghosts and goblins, pirates and princesses, superheroes and starlets traipsing around the block together, chanting that quintessential phrase — “trick-or-treat!”

Undoubtedly, Halloween represents a childhood rite-of-passage, filled with excitement, fantasy, mischief…

And, of course, sugar.

Otherwise known as the kids’ main motivation for dressing up. That haul of Skittles, Twizzlers and Milky Ways, which they’ll triumphantly drag home then ceremoniously dump on the kitchen floor, might just be their favorite part of the whole evening. But, as a parent, excessive candy consumption is likely your biggest complaint.

So, how can you keep your children from wolfing down unhealthy amounts of refined sugar without squelching their innocent fun? These pointers will do the trick! (See what I did there?)

halloween treats without the tricks

1.   Sort the pieces of candy into small piles (about four–five apiece) and transfer each grouping into a snack-sized Ziploc bag. Store these bags out of reach until the weekend. Then, give your kids a sweet treat to enjoy on Friday movie night, or pass out individual “goodie bags” during their Saturday sleepover. If you associate candy with special occasions, they won’t crave the cavity-causing sugar on a daily basis.

2.   Start a rewards system, so candy becomes a sweet incentive rather than TV-watching “junk food.” Let’s say your kids received stellar report cards in the classroom, or completed their chore charts with minimal protest. Recognize these achievements by handing over a chocolate bar as positive reinforcement. Use the treats to motivate exemplary behavior — both at home and school.

3.   Combine a handful of candy with healthy snack alternatives. Add M&Ms to pistachios, pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes for a wholesome trail mix. Bake dark chocolate into zucchini bread, or serve alongside sliced apples and almond butter. Drizzle melted caramel chews over whole-grain oatmeal or poached pears. Therefore, kids can satisfy that sweet tooth, while you sneak nutrients in their diet.

4.   Avoid stockpiling the Halloween candy stash over a long period. Cut down on those trick-or-treating leftovers by purging your house after a couple weeks. Surprise co-workers with a peppermint jar in the break room. Include Hershey squares in care packages for a neighbor or the kids’ teachers. Sweeten up holiday get-togethers with party favors for each guest. Chances are, as the Halloween novelty wears off, your little ones won’t even notice the missing candy right away.

Of course, sugary indulgence is part of childhood, so I’m not suggesting you deny them altogether. Parents should encourage kids to be
well, kids. The key word is MODERATION.

Provided your children aren’t over-stuffing themselves on Halloween goodies, there’s no reason to micromanage. Simply offset those empty calories by serving balanced nutrition at meal times.

After all, even the youngsters will probably concede that fresh vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains are more substantial in the long-run than a temporary sugar high or quick-fix craving. So, let ’em have their thrills. Just make sure it’s within predetermined boundaries.

happy halloween

Hasta la Vista, Candy Corn. Make It a Healthy Halloween.

So, you just carved that jack-o-lantern, huh? You chiseled, sawed, and sliced away. You also gutted its innards, so now stringy orange slime has taken up residence on your kitchen floor.

Awesome.

Well, you could trash the goop. Or, you could extract the pumpkin seeds and turn them into something fabulous. I don’t know about you, but Option #2 has my personal vote!

Many of us already associate roasting pumpkin seeds as a tasty fall tradition. But, were you aware that these festive little munchies are also nutritional powerhouses? Uh huh. They’re regular superfoods. According to an article posted on the alternative medicine website, Mercola.com, here are some health benefits of our pal, Mr. Pumpkin Seed:

  • Magnesium for cardiovascular circulation, DNA/RNA synthesis, and skeletal strength
  • Zinc for immune system support, cell growth/division, insulin regulation, and enhanced senses
  • Omea-3s for anti-inflammation, blood oxygenation, and defense against cognitive aging.
  • Tryptophan for melatonin/seratonin production, resulting in a restful sleep cycle
  • Fiber for bowel normalization, decreased cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Antioxidants for protection against free radicals and harmful UVA skin exposure

There. That’s all the persuasion you need. Now, go roast those seeds for a savory afternoon pick-me-up that you can feel great about!

(And, just in case you need pointers on pre-cleaning the seeds before cooking them, I borrowed this simple strategy from SimplyRecipes.com: After scooping out the pumpkin’s flesh, transfer a large handful of seeds into a colander and run them under a strong stream of water until they have been separated from the flesh).

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  2. 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  3. 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  4. 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  5. 1 c. Pumpkin Seeds (pulp removed)

roasted pumpkin seed ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. In a small skillet, pre-heat the olive oil on a medium stove-top setting.
  2. Add the pumpkin seeds into the pan and season them with sea salt.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, then saute the seeds for 3-5 minutes, while stirring.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Transfer the seeds onto the baking sheet and spread them around evenly.
  6. Sprinkle the seeds with chili powder and smoked paprika, to taste.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow to roast for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Once these seeds have turned golden brown, remove them from the oven.
  9. Let them cool before eating, then nibble to your heart’s content on this healthy seasonal snack!

roasted pumpkin seed saute

roasted pumpkin seed pre-bake

roasted pumpkin seed cooled