6 Ways to Have a Healthier Halloween

You don’t have to sacrifice candy or fun.

Updated on February 9, 2023

Two kids in costumes celebrating Halloween at home
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Kids love Halloween—and odds are you do, too. Candy is, of course, the main draw of the holiday. While one evening filled with sugar isn't going to make or break most people’s long-term health, it can’t hurt to incorporate wholesome treats and fun games into your festivities this year. Not to mention, healthier activities will allow you and your kids to focus on something other than the sweets.

Here are some tips that will help your family move more and cut calories, without sacrificing all the spooky fun.

Halloween cocktails
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Offer nutritious alternatives

Creating a healthier Halloween party includes limiting the amount of sugary beverages and sweets served to your family. These foods often contain empty calories and have little or no nutritional value. They also include added sugar and syrups, which are put into foods during processing or preparation.

“We want to teach kids that it’s okay to have some treats, but it should be in moderation, as part of an overall healthy diet,” says Anne Brock, RDN, LD, of West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho.

Consuming a lot of added sugar on a regular basis can lead to unintentional weight gain and obesity, along with serious conditions like inflammation, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that added sugars be no more than 10 percent of daily calories for those over 2 years old, and that children under 2 stay clear of food and drinks with added sugars completely. Sugar can also negatively affect your dental health, causing cavities and tooth decay, says Brock.

For most healthy children, one day of sugar may not do a whole lot of damage. But if you’re looking for healthier alternatives for your family or small party, Brock suggests trying these options:

  • Prepacked and sealed fruit like oranges, grapes, or apple slices
  • Popcorn popped in a healthy fat and placed in single-serve snack bags
  • Non-edible items like pencils, erasers, spider rings, and glow sticks

And if you do buy candy, stick to bite-size pieces rather than full-sized bars.

Halloween snacks
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Serve your homemade treats first

Try setting out healthier homemade treats before any candy and sweets. That way, everyone can fill up on the nutritious foods before reaching for desserts.

A healthy spread for your family may include carrots, celery, grapes, guacamole, hummus (with a little orange food coloring), and apple chips. Or simply eat a balanced, nutritious lunch or dinner before having candy.

You can also use this opportunity to add seasonal treats to your menu. Protein-packed roasted pumpkin seeds and vitamin-A rich pumpkin chocolate muffins are a few easy ideas. More great alternatives include pumpkin pie dip with low-fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt, or popcorn balls with pumpkin seeds mixed in. Bake some apples or pears with cinnamon, or try homemade baked sweet potato chips with a topping of your choice. Try olive tapenade, a tangy coleslaw, or guacamole.

You can also make Halloween-themed treats like banana ghosts—cut a banana in half and decorate it with chocolate chips for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Miniature pumpkins can be made of small, peeled oranges or mandarins with a celery stalk sticking out of the middle for the stem. 

Get creative with your beverages too. Instead of soda and juice, try serving “potions”—still or sparking water flavored with berries, apples, or oranges. Mini smoothies with vanilla yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cinnamon can also be filling.

Jack-o-lanterns cut out of bell peppers and holding veggies
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Serve smaller portions

We’re not suggesting you completely forgo your family’s favorite Halloween candy this year. But consider the portion size of your candies. Choose fun-size versions of your favorite treats instead of full-size. If you’re baking, try miniature cupcakes or muffins, or bite-size cookies or brownies.

pumpkin child at halloween party
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Have games and activities to keep everyone moving

Another way to keep your Halloween on the healthier side is by encouraging your family to move.

Trick-or-treating in your community can generate a lot of steps and build muscle. Games and activities can do the same if you decide to stay at home. Playing allows children to exercise their creativity, imagination, and cognitive skills.

Some fun game ideas include:

  • Zombie dance party
  • Costume parade
  • Three-legged monster race 
  • Pumpkin toss or pumpkin bowling
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Apple eating contest
  • Halloween-themed charades
Halloween candy
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Get creative with leftover candy

If you buy way too much candy, there’s no need to eat it for the entire month of November. In fact, you don’t have to eat it at all. Try donating your individually wrapped candy or creatively saving it for future holidays and projects.

Soldiers' Angels Treats for Troops allows you to donate your candy to deployed service members and veterans in VA hospitals across the country. The Halloween Candy Buyback initiative allows companies to purchase your candy so they can ship it to troops overseas. Other organizations that may accept donations include nursing homes, shelters, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

If you want to keep some of the candy, chop it into bite-size pieces and freeze it. Later on, you can add it to cookies, cakes, milkshakes, ice cream, and gingerbread houses. You can also mix leftover candy with whole-grain cereal and nuts to create trail mix, says Brock. And if you really want to get creative, you can use leftover candy as a learning tool. M&Ms, for example, can be a great way to teach your child about colors and counting.

kids trick or treating
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Always play it safe

No matter what you’re doing or eating on Halloween, it’s important to be safe—and to encourage your kids to practice safe habits. If your children trick-or-treat around the neighborhood, they should always do so with an adult.

Here are some other ways to ensure you have a safe Halloween:

Be creative with costumes. Make sure your children have reflective tape or stickers somewhere on their bags and costumes. If possible, opt for light-colored costumes so kids are easily visible. For fun (and safety), Brock likes to use glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark candy buckets too.

Walk safely. It may sound obvious, but when kids get excited, they could take off running down the street, forgetting everything they’ve learned about street safety. Always remember to use traffic signals, crosswalks, and sidewalks. Avoid using electronic devices when walking around. Be aware of cars that are backing out of driveways and parking spots.

Be a cautious driver. If you’re driving around this Halloween, slow down and take extra time at intersections, medians, and curbs. Most kids trick-or-treat between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.—depending on the location—so pay special attention during those hours. 

Evaluate the loot. Once your kids come home, you’ll want to be sure to check all of their treats to be sure they’re sealed. Throw away anything that’s been opened, torn, has holes in it, or is rotten. Discard any homemade candies and treats if they weren’t made by someone your family knows.

Instead of a day of over-indulgence, Halloween can be a nutritious, active, and creative holiday. Choosing healthy snacks, activities, and portion sizes can make all the difference. 

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Mayo Clinic. Added sugars: Don't get sabotaged by sweeteners. February 9, 2023.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the Facts: Added Sugars. November 28, 2021.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Spook-tacular Healthy Halloween Ideas: USDA Evidence-Based Ideas for a Healthy and Safe Halloween. August 03, 2021.
Mayo Clinic Health System. Pumpkins: More than a jack-o’-lantern. October 6, 2020. 
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Tips for a Healthy Halloween Party. October 17, 2022.
Piya-Amornphan N, Santiworakul A, Cetthakrikul S, et al. Physical activity and creativity of children and youths. BMC Pediatr. 2020;20(1):118.
Action for Healthy Kids. Healthy Halloween Games. Accessed January 24, 2023. Halloween Treats: Better Safe Than Scary. Accessed January 24, 2023. 
The Nemours Foundation: KidsHealth. Halloween Safety Tips. Page last reviewed October 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Happy Hauntings: 13 Tips for a Healthy Halloween. October 29, 2019. 
Safe Kids Worldwide. Halloween Safety Tips. Accessed January 24, 2023.

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