11 Healthy Halloween Ideas

For children, October 31 is one of the most eagerly anticipated nights of the year. And is it any wonder? Not only is Halloween an excuse to dress up in scary costumes; it's also an opportunity to snatch up massive amounts of sugary treats.

According to the National Confectioner's Association, 93 percent of U.S. children will go trick-or-treating this year. Do health-conscious parents stand a ghost of a chance against the evening's calorie-laden fare? Follow these tips to help your children have fun without compromising nutrition.

  • Start downsizing
  • Begin by giving your kids collection bags that fit their sizes. Children under 5, for example, can do just fine with small bags, which will keep them from lugging home excessive amounts of unhealthy treats. For kids of all ages, just say no to oversize options, such as pillowcases, shopping bags, or plastic trash bags.

  • Get involved
  • After your children have returned home, help them sort the bounty into three piles: healthy, so-so, and unhealthy. Offer them a nickel or dime for each unhealthy food they sell to you.

  • Throw it away
  • Don't leave treats lying around the house after Halloween, says Bernadette Latson, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Your kids—and you—are likely to keep eating it long after the ghosts and goblins have gone.

  • Fill 'em up
  • If your children are hungry when they embark on trick-or-treating, it's more likely that they'll indulge or even binge on candy. So be sure to serve a well-balanced meal before your kids leave the house.

  • Reduce sugar
  • Although you should serve a full meal on Halloween night, try to avoid all unnecessary sugar that day. That way, if they do have a few treats later, they won't run the risk of overdosing on sweet stuff.

  • Set boundaries
  • As much as your child might want to polish off every treat in his bag, you have to set limitations. Experts suggest putting a five-treat limit, maximum, on your children's candy consumption.

  • Try nonedible options
  • Instead of giving out candy to local ghosts and goblins, consider small toys, such as temporary tattoos, stickers, crayons, small novelties, miniature magnifying glasses, plastic jewelry/decoder rings, necklaces, and fake money.

  • Beware of nuts
  • Children who are allergic to peanuts and other nuts could suffer potentially fatal reactions on Halloween, says Dr. Amal Assa'ad, allergy expert at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. He recommends that parents carefully read the labels of all candy and commercially baked goods their children receive.

  • Get an early start
  • The earlier your children embark on Halloween activities, the greater the chance that they'll end the festivities early and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Allow enough quiet time to enable excited kids to calm down before they hit the sack.

  • Have fun with pumpkins
  • They're not only great for making ghoulish jack-o'-lanterns; pumpkins are also a great source of vitamin A and C, potassium, and fiber. Some especially healthy options: Make pumpkin pie or custard without the crust; add pumpkins to muffins, pancakes and cookies; or simmer pumpkin chunks with green beans for a colorful vegetable dish.

  • Brush up
  • Halloween is the perfect time for parents to reinforce proper brushing habits. In fact, you might consider putting toothbrushes in Halloween goody bags, suggests Dr. Stephen Pasqua, a family dentist in New Rochelle, N.Y. Kids can enjoy chocolate and lollipops on occasion, as long as they brush their teeth afterward, he says. Just remind them—even superheroes brush their teeth twice a day.