If the mere thought of having barrels of candy to dole out, sort through, and be tempted by on—and after—Halloween makes you break into a sweat, have no fear! Here you'll find 22 expert tips and tricks to help you put all that candy in perspective (and keep your nutritious diet intact). Although some of the tips contradict one another—even nutrition pros don't always agree—choosing several of them are sure to help you and your family eat better and still have fun before, during, and after Halloween.
1. Procrastinate. If you wait to buy candy until the day of or day before Halloween, you'll minimize temptation to bust into it before you need it.
2. Minimize. Buy bite-size or "minis" candies instead of larger pieces; that way, if you have leftovers, the portion sizes will automatically be small.
3. Go beyond candy. In addition to buying a few favorites for the candy bowl, add to your bowl or bucket some sugar free gum, stickers, tattoos, pencils, and erasers (little kids especially love these).
4. Think outside the bar. Instead of offering ho-hum chocolate candy bars, offer KIND Healthy Grain bars* (in flavors like Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate)—they're made with 100% whole grains and 3 grams of fiber to fill you up. KIND Nuts and Spices bars*, also made with all-natural ingredients, are a good source of protein and have 5 grams of sugar or less. They're available in indulgently delicious flavors like Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.
5. Add some fun. Candy is not the only option to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Kids also love bouncy balls, festive stickers or glow sticks—they can even use these to walk around the neighborhood with!
6. Trade up. Instead of offering sugary, fruit-flavored snacks, opt for options like Trader Joe's Organic Fruit Wraps. They're 100% fruit and low in sugar (with no added sugar), and are free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
7. Forget "one for you, one for me." Instead of grabbing something for yourself each time you pass out candy, plan ahead and make sure to eat a real meal before the trick-or-treat hours. If all else fails, chew gum to avoid temptation to 'just have one' when you have to reach repeatedly into that oversized candy bowl.
8. Set rules ahead of time. To reduce the risk of having a Halloween food fight, decide before you and your kids head out the door how many treats they can have that night. After they choose their treats, put the rest on a high shelf that only mom or dad can reach.
9. Stay fueled. Follow your normal eating pattern on Halloween to reduce your risk of being starved—and tempted to overindulge—when you're faced with all that candy. Be sure to include at least half a plate of fruits and vegetables to fill up at each meal.
10. Eat before you trick or treat. Choose some protein-rich foods like cheese, turkey, chicken, nuts or hummus; a whole grain from bread, a wrap, pasta or crackers; fruits and/or vegetables from fruit salad to crudité to stay energized throughout the afternoon and evening.
11. Enjoy trick-or-treating without eating. Wait until you get home to go through the loot. Allow each child to choose one or two treats to enjoy and savor on Halloween night. Put the rest in a candy jar and enjoy one or two small treats a day thereafter.
12. Go for a pop. Lollipops take a long time to eat, so they're a good, relatively low-calorie option for when you're tempted while passing out or sorting candy.
13. Sort first, then eat. Instead of allowing your kids to eat candy on the go, check it over at the end of the evening to make sure it looks safe to eat (eg wrappers aren't torn, the candy looks fresh). And if you have more than one child, let them trade what's left so they can have more of their "favorite" things to save for another day.
14. Have a teachable moment. Having a big bag of candy in the house at the end of the day actually presents a great time to talk with your kids about treats—what a reasonable portion for candy is, and how they can fit it into an otherwise balanced diet.
15. Let them be in charge. If you allow your kids to eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night, and they overeat, they can learn an important lesson. That stomachache may teach them how important it is to pace yourself when indulging in sweet treats.
16. Use the 3-D approach: Devour: Halloween is a special day that comes only once a year, so don't be a curmudgeon. Allow your kids to have some of their candy that night –just not all of it. A single candy feast won't have a lasting impact on health. Divide: The day after, have each child divide the candy into the ones he/she likes and the ones he/she doesn't care about. Give or throw away the latter. Divide the rest of the candy into small zip snack bags and store in your pantry or freezer. Distribute: Let each child have a small snack bag of candy each day along with a nutrient-rich food like milk, yogurt or fruit.
17. Pick 3. After you trick or treat, each family member can pick three treats to eat slowly and mindfully. Describing why you choose each piece and how each piece tastes can help you indulge more consciously and feel the power of your food choices.
18. Make your own 100-calorie packs. Pre-portioning leftover candy can help you feel satisfied without going overboard. Examples of homemade 100-calorie packs include 4 Hershey Kisses, 2 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups miniatures, 2 mini Nestle Crunch bars, 4 Tootsie Roll midges, 4 rolls of Smarties, 3 Laffy Taffy candies, 2 fun size Milk Duds, 2 mini York Peppermint Patties, or 4 Jolly Rancher hard candies.
19. Buy it back. You can buy your kids' candy, discard the non-freezable items, and freeze the chocolate candy. Then dole out a piece or two in their lunch boxes, or for dessert after dinner.
20. Stash it. After Halloween, put the leftover and collected candy in an out of sight location (like a hard to reach cabinet or in a closet); if you don't easily see it, you won't mindlessly eat it. After a few days, you may even forget about it altogether!
21. Pay it forward. You can send leftover candy to the troops via Operation Gratitude or call local nursing homes, food pantry's, women's shelters, or a Children's hospital. Some libraries even have drop-offs for extra candy donations.
22. Become an artist. If you have older children in the house, visit Candy Experiments for safe science experiment ideas using all kinds of leftover goodies. This is a great way to make not eating candy fun!Not sure what you'll be yet? Use our Halloween Costume Finder, and then buy your favorite Halloween costumes at Shop Parents. Image of trick or treat Halloween candies in the barn with orange pumpkins via shutterstock.
Sources: Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, (Tip 16); Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tip 18); Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD (Tips 1, 3, 7, 14, 20); Angela Ginn, RDN, LDN, CDE, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tip 9); Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RD (Tip 19); Lyssie & Tammy Lakatos*, RDN, CDN, CFT, authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure (Tips 4, 6); Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Tips 2, 15); Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Tip 11); Danielle Omar, MS, RD, (Tips 5, 21, 22); Hemi Weingarten, CEO, Fooducate (Tip 8); Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods (Tips 10, 17); and Zari Ginsburg, MS, RD, CDN (Tip 13).
*Lyssie and Tammy Lakatos are compensated spokespeople for KIND.