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Healthier for the Holidays series: Trick-or-treat your way to a healthier Halloween

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This article will be published in the El Paso Inc. Sunday paper on Oct. 29, 2017

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Do you have a love-hate relationship with this time of year? Lots of fun holidays, starting with Halloween, then on to Thanksgiving, all the holiday parties in December, and culminating with New Year celebrations…and all that tempting but not-so-healthy food. This is the first article in a series called Healthier for the Holidays to help you face the season with some tools to help make it healthier.

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While the apple used to be the iconic “treat” for trick-or-treating, wrapped and sealed candy is now the norm. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your favorite candy now and then, but this holiday has gotten a little out of hand. Rather than getting a single piece at each house, trick-or-treaters sometimes get handfuls at each stop, adding up to a tremendous pile of sugar. We can also find ourselves faced with co-workers and friends wanting to spread the joy of this holiday by bringing Halloween candy to work and social events. Here are some ideas to deal with this cultural phenomenon.

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A little candy can go a long way. If you take kids trick-or-treating, set up the expectations before you even start. For example, agree that they will sort through the candy when you get home and select their favorite 2 or 3 pieces to enjoy that evening. Maybe they also select a couple of pieces to have each night after dinner for the rest of the week. If you can get away with it, throw the rest away. If this idea is upsetting for the kids, put the rest in the freezer and assure them they can select a few more pieces next week. They may forget it is there altogether, but if they remember, there isn’t much harm in letting them select a few more. By keeping it in the freezer, it keeps it out of sight and makes it harder to impulse eat.

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Toys as treats. If you give out “treats” at your house, set a good example for the neighborhood and provide non-food treats. The stores are full of them this time of year – Halloween-themed pencils or eraser, bouncy balls, mini containers of bubbles, and other fun novelty toys. After having friends tease me for doing this, saying that no kid would prefer the toy over the candy, I conducted a little experiment one year. Two bowls – one with candy and one with toys. Each trick-or-treater got to pick from the bowl of their choice. Guess which one emptied first? Yep, the toys.

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Add some physical activity to the holiday. This is one of the few holidays that has some activity built right in. After all, trick-or-treating involves a lot of walking. See if you can find ways to build on this. Maybe you have to do some training walks around the neighborhood in the days leading up to Halloween, or go for a walk to explore all the great decorations. You can also set your trick-or-treat pattern to crisscross back and forth across the street instead of up one side and down the next.

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Party healthy. If you have workplace or school parties you are involved with, plan ways to integrate healthy food like bobbing for apples or refer to the endless creative ideas online for healthy Halloween party food. Also try not to have the whole focus on food – plan some fun activities that will get people moving like spooky dance contest or pumpkin bowling. For nighttime bowling, put glow sticks into filled water bottles to make fun bowling pins.

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Healthier Halloween resources:

Recipes & crafts: https://www.creatingreallyawesomefunthings.com/healthy-halloween-snacks/

Health focused, activity page downloads: http://www.nourishinteractive.com/nutrition-education-printables/category/18-halloween-pumpkins-kids-free-coloring-pages-printables-halloween-foods-coloring-pictures

Active games: https://www.verywell.com/halloween-games-that-keep-kids-moving-1257320?utm_source=emailshare&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareurlbuttons

Teal pumpkin project – raising awareness of food allergies: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project

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Contact the Center for Community Health Impact | 915-975-8518 | Veronica.Rodriguez.1@uth.tmc.edu

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