I love fall. I think it’s always been my favorite season. I grew up in Kansas City, where the fall meant bright colors, crisp leaves, bonfires, warm days, cool nights, pumpkins, apples and candy. Lots. of. candy. We had no shame on Halloween and came home with bags full of the best goodies. We kept it all, traded it as needed for something better, and enjoyed every bite.
I grew up, of course, and became older, wiser and healthier. I have written posts and newsletters over the past few years about how to choose healthier things to eat at Halloween and what sugar to avoid and ingredients to stay away from. Here’s the deal, though – I kind of discounted the importance of memories. Of tradition. Yes, you can give out packets of pretzels and light popcorn, and you might really love doing that if your parents did it. My parents gave out candy. And chocolate. I’m a child of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and my Halloween meant Milk Duds and Snickers and Almond Joy (I ALWAYS traded the Mounds for Almond Joy) and Sweet Tarts and Butterfingers and Reese’s. I gave my mom the Whoppers because she loved them and I diligently refused any Jolly Rancher that came my way. We didn’t worry about sugar or food coloring back then, and we had just walked 5 miles around our neighborhood collecting the candy so our exercise was spoken for. It was fun and it was a part of my childhood and I loved it.
Halloween has changed over the years – we have a different awareness of how processed candy affects our bodies and it’s not as safe to trick or treat as it was when I was little – but I still love the memories it invokes. I want to be healthy, but I have also accepted that I don’t want to change everything I remember about Halloween just to save a few bad ingredients. So here is my three step guide to a healthy Halloween in our household:
1) Don’t buy candy until the day before or even the day of Halloween. One – it’s usually on sale at this point and you will score! Two – it’s not staring you in the face all week begging to be eaten.
2) On Halloween, eat whatever you want. Just go for it. The rule is you have to be present for each bite and you have to make a conscious decision to eat it – no eating right out of the bag mindlessly in front of the tv. If you ALLOW yourself to have something without feeling guilty, and you actually savor it a little and the memories or tastes it invokes, you might surprise yourself and eat less than you would if you were on a “diet” or restricting yourself. You also might feel really yucky afterwards and remember why you only do this once a year – speaking from experience.
3) The day after Halloween, give it all away. I’m not even kidding – get it out of the house. Throw it away, give it away, take it to your salon or chiropractor so they can give it away to their clients. Even better, have your dentist buy the candy from you and your kids and then pass it on to Operation Gratitude to send to soldiers overseas! The Halloween Candy Buyback program is a phenomenal idea and such an awesome way to get the candy out of your house and towards folks who will appreciate it much more. I am in love with this program. There is no shame in admitting that your will power will lose the battle when Reese’s pumpkins are on your counter (why oh why do you taunt me Reese’s pumpkins?!) Get rid of the candy, and wait until next year to have it again.
Embrace the holiday and what it means for you and your family. Take the opportunity to teach your kids the joys of treats and when to indulge and when to say no. If you feed them healthy 90% of the time, they probably won’t want much of the sugary fake stuff because they will realize how they feel afterwards. Don’t try to hide your own treats from them or make it seem like something to be ashamed of. Have fun with them and trade candy and be goofy!
I bought our Halloween candy yesterday and enjoyed a mini Hershey’s Cookies n’ Cream bar with a glass of red wine after my daughter fell asleep last night. It was sugary and fake and weird and wonderful, just like I remembered. I’ll have one of those dang Reese’s pumpkins today, and a Snickers if I can trade it off an older kid later. Then tomorrow, the candy will be gone and all that will remain is my memories of another wonderful Halloween.
Happy Halloween! Have fun and be safe!