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Healthy Halloween

Original post made by Healthy Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 16, 2006

As is is that time of year again when candy and treats are one of the most talked about topics of our kids, I would like to put in a please, please, please, request to make Halloween Healthy. As we have a nation of kids bordering on obesity or already there, we should as a health conscious community make sure that this time of year is not a time to fall back into bad ways. I am speaking as the Mom of children who need to watch their weight and I try to do my best at home. Unfortunately, it isn't at home they get their treats and they are looking forward to a time of candy and sweet sticky heaven. So lets try and be creative in our treat giving. How about pencils, stickers or other party favors instead of trick or treat candy, and when it comes to party time at school or snacks after team sport fun lets think about whole grain pumpkin breads, muffins or cookies, or orange foods like carrots, or harvest foods like apple slices and dips or mandarin orange cups with toothpick spears, or, or, be imaginative. I am sure that I am not the only one who worries about the health of my children and it really is the whole community that needs to act, not just family by family. So lets go for it!!

Comments (14)

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2006 at 1:44 pm

When my girls were on sports teams in the 80's in PA, one snack I always included when it was our turn to provede refreshments was ornage segments, icy cold. The kids loved them, as they were refreshing and thirst quenching. Watermelon was also a hit for the same reason. Of course I would also provide an additional treat, but the fruit always would disappear first. I managed to avoid providing candy, sugary "fruit drinks", as well as other high calorie/fat items.

I've hinted at that idea for my grandkids, but I'm afraid that it mostly falls on deaf ears. I support you, Healthy Mom. I hope others have the courage to think "outside the box" as well.

Last year for Halloween I gave out pencils for the big kids and mini containers of Play Doh for the little kids. I wish I could remember where I happened to run across the Play Doh, but the pencils are easy to find.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Some options are to collect coins for UNICEF, or collect old glasses to send to an organization that cleans and distributes them to people who need them. For more info see Web Link They will send a little kit for Halloween. Since the start of this program -- Halloween collection of used eyewear -- the organization has redistributed something like 900,000 pairs of used glasses. We intend to let our neighbors know in advance so they have a chance to hunt up their old glasses ahead of time.

I gave my little trick-or-treater the choice to either get candy, get candy and exchange it for a toy, or collect glasses for people who need them and exchange them for a toy -- I offered $1 per pair of glasses collected -- I hope I'm not in for it! The fact that we will be doing something for others seemed to factor heavily into the decision -- if anything, it seems to have made the prospect of Halloween more fun and meaningful.

My parents used to put together little bags of useful kid's stuff like nice themed pencils and little tiny notebooks -- they used to get on the order of a few hundred kids on Halloween every year, so I don't think it was an unpopular treat.


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Posted by DJ
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 17, 2006 at 6:33 am

Its one thing to get candy as a part of trick-or-treat and its another thing to 'eat it all' ! I hate to say this - but Halloween is all about candy. Last year, someone handed out stickers and erasers ..(which personally I thought was a GREAT idea) .. I was trick-or-treating with a couple kids from elementary school and as soon as we stepped out on the side walk - I heard one word "BORING".

We collect all the candy / hand out candy. The kids get to eat two pieces on that day. On the next day we sort the candy (there usually are 'favorites' and 'not so favorite'). The not-so-favorite is immediately taken away; we take out a few pieces for the week and the rest go in our 'safe vault'.

So, even if it is candy - as parents - set down the rules of how much of it gets eaten.

... My question is .. does anyone know a place where one can donate this candy? I bring some to work, some to other offices that I know - but I would love to donate this and get done with the 'hidden candy' in the house on the next day.


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Posted by rly
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2006 at 11:30 am

Halloween is the one day a year when a child should be allowed to indulge! Handing out pencils and erasers only annoys children and takes away from the fun. Make sure you disallow your own child from eating all the candy at once-- ration it to two pieces a week. The candy is so processed-- it will last forever!

I fully support the UNICEF boxes in addition to the traditional huge bag for candy. Palo Alto kids need to always remember there are many kids across the nation and the world that go to bed hungry every night. To grow up in a bubble like Palo Alto is a rare privelege that should not be overlooked.


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Posted by Sensible Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2006 at 1:46 pm

Halloween comes but once a year. Let the kids be kids and have their Halloween treats. Your child's health is impacted more heavily by what you offer for meals and snacks on a day to day basis than by what they eat at holiday times. It won't derail their overall health to have party food and candy at Halloween (or other holidays). Just teach them to make healthy choices in their everyday lives. You do more harm by placing restrictions on the foods they eat and making certain foods "taboo" than by letting them enjoy an occassional treat. Lighten up and let the kids live a little!


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Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2006 at 2:53 pm

I agree with Sensible parent. I think its the decisions we make and we help our kids make the other 364 days out of the year that are making them. Maybe we could commit to having kids be less sedentary the rest of the year, and celebrate the fact that although they are collecting candy, they are getting some excercise by walking from house to house.
I do think Healthy Mom has good motives though - I don't mean any disrespect. I just think its unrealistic and frankly not too fun to abandon the tradition of getting candy on halloween. The obesity epidemic amongst kids is relatively new, but I think kids managed to stay fit in generations past in spite of some halloween candy. The difference? Probably less motivation back then to sit inside and play video games.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2006 at 8:02 pm

Halloween may come but once a year, but add that to Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and almost weekly birthday parties (with goodie bags full of candy), plus home birthdays, etc., and it's just all about candy all the time.

I prefer to lighten up and let my kid live a little on special family occasions (and not necessarily just major occasions), not on overly commercialized holidays that are dictated to me by candy and greeting card industries. When I was growing up, Halloween was not at all about the candy, it was a harvest festival with reminders of the changing seasons, the harvest, and meant apple cider, hay rides, crafts with candles and pumpkins, costumes -- the treats were things like pumpkin pie and apple cider, not gobs of candy that we are awash in every day anyway. I remember the first year we moved to a place where the emphasis was only on candy and haunted houses, and how Halloween had suddenly become so one-dimensional and boring compared with before.


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Posted by Healthy Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2006 at 9:45 am

Thank you A.J. At last I find someone who is in agreement with me. I try my best at home, and my kids definitely know what is healthy and what isn't, but they get their treats everywhere else all the time. It is a case that I can't treat my kids anymore, because a treat isn't a treat its the norm. Here is an example. One hot Saturday last winter (before the cold spring rains), my kids had all been playing basketball games and since it was still early afternoon, I decided to treat them to ice cream at Baskin Robins. In line in front of us was a parent with their child and a couple of friends. These 3 young children (preschoolers or kinders) were each bought double scoops in a bowl with 2 toppings. My kids then complained when all I was prepared to buy them was a kid size scoop.
Instead of being thanked for the treat, I was told I was mean by my own kids. They were told that the treat was one scoop and if they didn't like that then they could choose not to have ice cream at all. They all chose ice cream and I let them each have one taste of another flavor. But instead of this being a nice family thing to have done, it became another battle over eating. I haven't taken them out for ice cream since.

The long and the short of it is that we must re-educate ourselves on how to eat healthy. We have got so caught up in the traditions and making our kids memories happy, that we have forgotten the fundamentals. It is the fun that is important, not the food. We can give food and treats to our kids so much easier than we can give time and fun. I don't know how to treat my kids with food because food is no longer a treat. I can remember how as a child I loved strawberries in summer, because strawberries were only available for about a month and then they were gone until next year. Ice Cream really was a treat because we had such a tiny freezer that we never had it at home and it was something we would get on a family outing to make it more special. Birthday cakes were something my mother made from scratch and decorated laboriously by hand, so we were really excited by them, and they tasted wonderful because cake was something we rarely had. I don't think I was deprived, I just valued more something that I seldom had. I would really like to see us getting back to that ideal.


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Posted by T.
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Oct 18, 2006 at 6:47 pm

Healthy Mom,

I suggest that you go to the library or a bookstore and look for Ellyn Satter's book, "Your Child's Weight: Helping without Harming". Web Link

I think that you are obsessing too much about food and it is going to harm your children's perceptions about eating.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 18, 2006 at 11:55 pm

I have used Ellyn Satter's books to good effect; I think Healthy Mom has a healthy attitude toward eating and gratitude.

When I was growing up, I was the lone kid in the school who never had Twinkies or cookies in my lunch box -- I had sandwiches with bread my mother made with whole grains (at the time, something no one else had and you couldn't buy) and (embarrassing) cut into thick slices at home, home grown fruit and veggies. I never had processed lunch meats, white factory sliced bread, candy, cookies, or any of the other "cool" food or "treats". My parents were not hippies, they just grew up in other countries where people who could eat had better diets and people who couldn't really did starve to death. When I ate the school lunches, I was the one who ate the veggies and (I'm sure "T" would shudder) cleaned my plate. I never had to worry about my weight, was thin and athletic and frankly, always the best student in school.

I recently heard from an old friend from high school -- she grew up in a household where everything was junk and processed, and thanked me for what she had learned by watching ME eat when we were teenagers! Now that she is a mom of two, she eats and teaches them to eat the way my parents taught me, and the family is much healthier and happier for it!

I'm glad for my parents' approach to food, even when I didn't understand as a kid why we ate so differently than everyone else.

Congratulations Healthy Mom, for taking the road (unfortunately) less traveled and teaching your kids about healthy eating!


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Posted by a Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 19, 2006 at 9:09 am

I agree with those who are being careful to avoid excess sugar and junk in their children's diets, but Halloween is a once-a-year celebration with so many exciting things other than candy--costumes, parties, decorating houses, and neighborhood spirit. Please don't obsess about the fact that kids get some candy. You can always limit how much of the candy they eat, and even how long they are our trick-or-treating, but this is a kid-oriented holiday they should be able to enjoy without heavy-handed restrictions.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 19, 2006 at 1:35 pm

I don't think anyone disagrees with you, Parent -- I think that's what Healthy Mom and I are saying, Halloween is a lot more fun if we focus on the kids and the special occasion, and less on excessive intake of candy. Choosing to put energy and focus on being creative about fun instead of focusing on lots of candy does not equate to "obsess[ing] about the fact that kids get some candy."

There are a great many things that can make a moment or a holiday special aside from huge amounts of cheap candy -- that some families prioritize those other things does not make them heavy-handed or obsessive (I think it's pretty heavy-handed and judgmental to accuse someone of that).

And, I think we probably would not be having this discussion if Halloween really were so different where the candy is concerned, but unfortunately, these days it's not.

I think everyone is well-intentioned and basically in agreement above, but I think there clearly is some sensitivity among both parents who are okay with letting their kids eat a lot of candy and those who aren't -- it seems both sides feel judged and some judgment about the other.


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Posted by a Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 19, 2006 at 6:01 pm

A.J.,
I agree with your comments entirely and didn't mean to be judgmental. Sorry if it sounded that way. I am also a parent who enjoys all the festivities of Halloween unrelated to candy. I've always found that just limiting the trick-or-treating time works. We don't end up with a huge quantity of excess candy and I've discovered that kids have just as much fun handing out candy at the door as they do trick-or-treating themselves (after they've gone for short trick-or-treating themselves)! Carving pumpkins, creating costumes, decorating the house, getting together with friends are activities even more anticipated than eating a bunch of sweets.


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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 20, 2006 at 7:02 pm

Thanks Parent! I appreciate the diplomacy, I hope I did not sound too harsh either. This year I'm wondering about some of the community Halloween activities, such as Stanford Mall, California Avenue, and the new Whole Foods -- I'd be curious to know if anyone has done those and what they are like. Is it just trick-or-treat for candy or are there other activities?


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