A plate full of Halloween-decorated treats
A creative spirit and a stroll through the produce section can open up a host of opportunities for healthy Halloween treats. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The Halloween season can be a fun time for kids and adults. It’s filled with exciting events, costumes, decorations and—of course—treats.

Sugary snacks are abundant this time of year. Workplaces, grocery stores and gatherings become full of sweet offerings and candy left over from trick-or-treating.

While this can be enjoyable, it may also be stressful for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

So is it possible to have a healthier Halloween? Absolutely.

Here are some tips you can try to help create a healthier Halloween experience this year.

Eat balanced meals

Don’t skip meals or eat very little during the day in an attempt to save calories for extra sweets later in the day. This strategy usually backfires. Limiting your food intake during the day can make you feel tired and cranky. It may also cause you to accidentally overeat later in the day.

Be sure to eat regular, balanced meals during the day.

Include nutrient-dense foods like produce, whole grains and lean proteins at meals to normalize your blood sugar and keep your energy levels more consistent. And drink plenty of non-caffeinated, unsweetened fluids like water to stay hydrated before you enjoy your big event.

Get enough sleep

Poor sleep habits can set you up for imbalanced eating. If you consistently get less than seven hours of sleep per night, the hormones that regulate your appetite can shift and make you feel hungrier than you really are.

Research shows that when we are very tired, we tend to reach for candy or highly process foods more often. This is because these food sources tend to convert to energy faster than more nutrient-dense foods, such as produce or whole grains.

Set yourself up for more normal eating habits by creating a regular sleep routine to promote better sleep quality. It may be useful to discuss this with your doctor if you’re not sure where to start.

Be flexible

It’s true that candy and other sweets do not provide much nutrient value. But they do taste good and they’re enjoyable to eat, especially during Halloween events.

If you have any strict rules around candy or treats, it may be helpful to loosen them a little.

Studies show that people who consider sweets to be forbidden foods actually tend to overeat them when they have access to them. This can cause a person to sneak treats and other foods—and then feel shame or guilt when they do eat them.

By allowing regular access to treats, you may find that they are less exciting. This may cause you to feel less tempted to eat them, or it may prevent you from overeating them. This applies to kids, as well.

Not there yet, for yourself or for the kids?

Try this exercise: Ask kids how candy makes their bodies and minds feel after they eat them. Then ask them how this compares to when they eat produce.

Do they have more or less energy? Do they feel sick at all? What else do they notice? These questions may allow them to conclude that treats, while tasty, don’t make them feel great when they eat too much.

Over time this can create more healthful relationships with all foods, promoting nourishment and good health.

Consider alternatives

Of course, there are always alternatives to sweets if you’d like. Here are some ideas for alternatives to candy that you could consider passing out to trick-or-treaters:

  • Glow sticks
  • Sticker books
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Spooky necklaces, rings or headbands
  • Vegetable seed packets
  • Mini packages of pretzels or whole grain crackers
  • Produce such as clementine, apples or mini pumpkins
  • Boxes or pouches of 100% juice
  • Squeezable yogurt tubes
  • Mini granola bars

If you’re not participating in trick-or-treating but are attending a gathering, consider bringing a fun Halloween-themed dish, like the following:

  • Ghost bananas. Cut a banana in half and add chocolate chips for eyes.
  • Veggie skeletons. Use celery and carrot sticks to make the skeleton. Serve with dip or hummus in a cauldron or pot next to the veggies.
  • A fruit graveyard. Arrange a variety of fruit in a spooky scene.
  • Vegetable soups or chili with ghost chips. Cut whole grain or corn tortillas into spooky shapes and bake to serve with soups.
  • Homemade vegetable pizzas. Cut the veggies or cheese into shapes such as witches’ hats, ghosts or jack-o’-lanterns.
  • Homemade trail mixes. Use dried fruits, pretzels or popcorn, nuts and small amounts of orange-and-black candy pieces.