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Here are Some Tricks for a Heart-Healthy Halloween

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Cardiovascular experts have good news for trick-or-treaters of all ages. It is possible to indulge in the candy festival known as Halloween and still maintain a reasonable level of heart-healthy habits.

It’s hard to believe that a holiday associated with sugar rushes can be celebrated with heart health in mind, but it can be done. Follow these tips for making your Halloween weekend a little less indulgent and a little more healthy, for both kids and grownups.

Dinner First, Candy Later

It’s tempting to wolf down those first few (or first many) “fun size” chocolates on an empty stomach. However, having a meal before heading out for tricks and treats will cut down on goblins becoming instant gobblers.

An Opportunity for Exercise

If weather permits, walk, don’t drive, so you can help burn off the candy bars. Take the house-to-house visits at a brisker pace with older kids. Push that stroller with tiny goblins a little faster. And no matter how awesome your costume might be, wearing sneakers or walking shoes is a good idea if you plan to keep moving.

Portion Control

There’s no rule that requires trick-or-treaters to use a king-size pillowcase for gathering their Halloween bounty. A smaller container, such as a jack-o-lantern bucket, should get everyone home with a reasonable amount of candy. This plan might also convince little goblins to take only one piece of candy per house.

Alternative Treats

Think Mardi Gras. Instead of candy, give your spooky visitors lots of scary Halloween-themed souvenirs and trinkets available at party suppliers and other stores. Rings, necklaces, pencils and erasers, and anything that glows in the dark or has flashing LEDs should please the pickiest goblins.

Pay it Forward

Being careful about candy consumption while still indulging at Halloween is a good way to teach kids about diet and heart health. They can learn that fudging a little on holidays is usually okay if we follow smart diets the rest of the month. See the American Heart Association plan for post-Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving diets at the Eat Smart in November Program.

Party Hearty

Halloween falls on a football weekend this year, so many parties and gatherings will coincide with grilling, snacks, and plenty of related munching. Being cautious about candy while pouring cheese over tortilla chips and throwing a dozen more brats on the grill can be kind of spooky, not to mention counterproductive. To keep party food and grilling at least somewhat in line with heart-healthy diets, try incorporating some parts of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.

Fun-Size Your Snacks

No, not by making them bite-sized. Make them cool, because kids love anything that’s cool. All kinds of fruits and vegetables can become Halloween-themed snacks. Make a graveyard of carrots and celery in a tangy dip (dyed green, of course). Don’t forget that oranges and tangerines are basically crying out to become baby jack-o-lanterns.

Getting Over the Overstock

There will be leftovers. The American Heart Association offers these great ideas for managing excess Halloween candy:

  • Let each child keep enough candy to have one or two pieces a day for one or two weeks (long enough for the excitement to fade). Throw away, donate, or re-purpose the rest.
  • When your child asks for a piece of candy, pair it with a healthy snack, such as an apple, a banana, some nuts, or celery with peanut butter.
  • “Buy back” candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity, such as a zoo or park visit, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
  • Save it for holiday baking.
  • Save it to fill the piñata at the next birthday party or give away with Valentine’s Day cards.
  • Use it to decorate a holiday gingerbread house.
  • Donate excess candy to a homeless shelter, children’s hospital, or care package program for troops overseas. A familiar sweet treat from home can be comforting at the holidays.

Click here for heart-healthy recipes.