When more is less:  the importance of setting limits




Initially here in HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN we focused on preparing for the holiday event by considering alternative treats to offer at your door.  Then we offered recommendations for good food and water intake in advance of the trick-or-treat adventure itself.  Today let’s think about rules and guidelines for behavior that you can set in advance to promote a healthy approach to collecting those holiday goodies offered by the neighbors.

In advance set a limit of only one Halloween treat to be accepted from each household that is visited. Just in case someone tries to give your children more, make sure that everybody in your party of wee beggars fully understands that children should be thankful — and should say so too — however, you can very simply and courteously inform the adult who is too lavishly handing out treats that you and your children have already agreed to a limit so that other kiddies can enjoy the generosity and holiday spirit as well. And perhaps consider also limiting your travel route to only the two or three blocks closest to home to cut back on the “wretched excess” that can otherwise accumulate all too fast.  After you return back to home base, allow the little ones to keep their costumes on, and then encourage them to help you to distribute treats to all the other children who will be ringing your door bell later on.  As everybody will soon see, GIVING can be fun too!




And please stop back here at HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN tomorrow for a look at innovative ways to incorporate more healthy activity into your door-to-door trek for treats.  Yes, as you will see, exercise actually can add to the fun for you and for those little ghosts and goblins in your traveling party too!


“Water, water, everywhere ….”




Yesterday in HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN we considered the importance of a nutritious (high in protein and in fiber) meal or snack in advance of your children hitting the street to gather Halloween treats in the neighborhood.  Today we will look the crucial role of water in maintaining healthy control of appetite and reducing the overconsumption of candy and other empty-calorie junk foods as your children make their way door-to-door in the neighborhood collecting “beggars loot” on Halloween.

It is important, of course, to stay well hydrated every day for a variety of health reasons, not the least of which is that thirst can sometimes masquerade as hunger. In the special case of Halloween, though, there is extra jeopardy that you or your children could easily succumb to the temptation to eat a high-calorie Halloween treat when a drink of water is what your body really needs. Encourage each individual in your entourage to take along a water bottle for sipping as you travel from house to house; then plan to consume at least one nice, long drink for each block you walk.

How much water is “enough” for children?

Fluid requirements for children are sometimes better estimated by weight than by age to take into account the possibility of an underweight or overweight child; however, the table below shows the baseline requirements for normal, healthy children:

              — Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements for Children
Age Range Gender Total Water (Cups/Day)
4 to 8 years Girls and Boys 5
9 to 13 years Girls 7
Boys 8
14 to 18 years Girls 8
Boys 11

(Data are from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Tables. Recommended Daily Allowance and Adequate Intake Values: Total Water and Macronutrients)

How might I know if a child needs to drink more water?

Physical symptoms of dehydration may consist of weight loss greater than one percent per day, increased thirst, decreased urine output, highly concentrated urine, etc. If you are uncertain of your child’s specific situation, please consider checking with your doctor or consulting a dietitian who specializes in pediatric nutrition to determine if you are providing an appropriate amount of fluid each day.


And please stop back at this HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site tomorrow to take a look at why it is essential to set limits for your children before they even take their first step out the door to begin the Halloween “harvest” of goodies.


Preparation for trick-or-treat adventurers

(It ain’t boot camp — or is it?)


In two previous HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN posts we looked at wise choices for non-candy items you might select to pass out as treats when your doorbell rings on Halloween.  Today we will consider how to best prepare your own little trick-or-treaters before they hit the street and begin the quest for holiday treasure.





“Consider encouraging your kids to eat something healthy and well-balanced — high in protein and fiber — before they go out so they are not tempted to overeat candy on the way,” suggests Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian from California. If children, from tots to teens, have a full tummy before they go out trick-or-treating, they will probably eat fewer sugary treats during the adventure and immediately afterwards; therefore, plan to serve a favorite family meal, a hearty soup like chili or at least a substantial, nutritious snack beforehand. And remember: a good multivitamin supplement, selected to be appropriate for your child’s age and needs, can help to bridge the nutritional gap today and every day.              42094499-vector-illustration-of-tasty-mexican-burrito-on-a-white-background                                                                                                            ***

And please be sure to come back to the HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site tomorrow to learn the one absolutely essential item for your children to take along with them as they make their way through the neighborhood collecting Halloween goodies.




What’s better than candy at Halloween time?


As we saw in last Friday’s HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN tip, there are some ways you can minimize the potential dangers when you stock up in advance with candy for the wee, treat-seeking beggars who will soon be knocking on your door.  Moving further along, today let’s consider, instead, good alternative, non-candy treats that will allow you to bypass entirely those risky, refined carbohydrate hazards.









>>> Plan to hand out more wholesome treats <<<

“Animal crackers, mini rice cereal or granola bars, whole grain cheddar cheese crackers and sugar-free hot chocolate packets make good treats,” suggests Kristi King, senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital. Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian based in California, recommends pretzels, apples, tangerines, fruit leathers or a trail mix of whole grain cereals. She also says that, if given a choice, kids will usually opt for cool toys over candy and, therefore, mentions pencils, erasers, stickers, temporary tattoos, glow sticks and small Play Doh containers as additional alternates for candy. “Often [children’s] excitement is more so in the collecting than in the consuming of treats,” Sheth observes.


>>> Think about possible food allergies before you buy <<<

Consider, perhaps, taking part in The Teal Pumpkin Project™ or at least following its guidelines when you purchase your treats. Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, this is an effort to raise awareness of food allergies by promoting inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. For further details you can visit their website:

So … think twice before you invest in a big bag of the same tired, old candy bars.  What other treats might your little holiday visitors appreciate even more?  To make your choices easier, I have assembled to share with you a list of the non-candy treats that nutrition experts most often recommend:


  • individual packages of nuts, raisins or whole grain trail mix
  • single-serving packs of cashews, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • personal-size microwave popcorn servings
  • gluten-free, sugarless chewing gum packs
  • Goldfish or other snack crackers, individually packaged
  • sugar-free hot chocolate or cocoa beverage mix envelopes
  • single servings of graham crackers, Teddy Grahams or animal crackers
  • prepackaged Rice Krispie or other cereal/nutrition bars
  • sealed, single-portion packets of cheese and crackers
  • fruit leathers or dried fruit packets
  • coupons to redeem for a small cone from your local yogurt shop
  • holiday-themed party favors
  • pencils, pens, markers and/or erasers
  • little plastic Halloween toys or jewelry
  • trading cards and/or playing cards
  • stickers or temporary tattoos
  • glow sticks
  • small boxes of crayons
  • coins/currency/cash
  • bottles of bubble fluid with wands
  • mini-notepads
  • bookmarks
  • stencils
  • noisemakers, kazoos or whistles



And please remember to visit the HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site again tomorrow, when we will look at the best way to prepare your own young trick-or-treaters in advance … before they ever hit the street in search of Halloween treasure.

25 Top HEALTHY Trick-Or-Treat Ideas


— Top 25 HEALTHY Trick-Or-Treat Ideas —

Instead of the same tired, old candy bar choices, how about offering an innovative, healthy alternative to your Halloween visitors this year?  And please note here: I am NOT recommending the ugly, industrial-strength toothbrush that my own neighborhood dentist used to hand out years ago to costumed youngsters unfortunate enough to find their way to his doorstep either.  Since those days I have collected many festive, candy-free treat suggestions that can launch your reputation as “Coolest Neighbor on the Block” and still stay within good health guidelines.  Consider some of the following items, all of them recommended by health care professionals, when you are planning treats for the wee ghosts and goblins who will soon be ringing your doorbell:


  • individual packages of nuts, raisins or whole grain trail mix34571155-kids-games
  • single-serving packs of sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • personal-size microwave popcorn servings
  • gluten-free, sugarless chewing gum packs
  • Goldfish or other snack crackers, individually packaged
  • sugar-free hot chocolate or cocoa beverage mix pouches
  • single servings of graham crackers, Teddy Grahams or animal crackers20626364-jigsaw-of-color-pencils
  • prepackaged Rice Krispies or other cereal nutrition bars
  • sealed, single-portion packets of cheese and crackers
  • fruit leathers or dried fruit snack packs
  • coupons for a small cone from your local yogurt shop
  • noisemakers, kazoos or whistles
  • holiday-themed party favors
  • pens, markers, pencils and/or erasers
  • small Halloween toys or plastic jewelry34944803-panther-head-set
  • trading cards or playing cards
  • stickers or temporary tattoos
  • glow sticks or glow balls
  • small boxes of crayons
  • coins/currency
  • bottles of bubble fluid with wands
  • stencils
  • mini-notebooks
  • hair ribbons or headbands
  • bookmarks




How can you plan now to make 2015 your healthiest, happiest Halloween ever?


Get ready for a countdown — one that can make you and your children healthier as the days go by!  Here at the beginning of October most of us are already getting excited and looking forward to fun fall festivities associated with the upcoming Halloween holiday. But as you decide whether to put together the latest “Super Hero” costume or to dress up as a spooky ghost instead, let me share some helpful tips to make sure you sail through October 31 this year enjoying all those great TREATS with no nasty TRICKS whatsoever.  During the next two weeks right here in HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN I will share a “survival tip” every weekday to help you get ready for your healthiest, happiest Halloween ever.  Be sure to come back each day to see new and helpful ways to celebrate and to enjoy high-level wellness at the same time.



>>> Nutritional considerations <<<


No doubt Halloween can be the scariest of all holidays when it comes to overindulging in high-calorie candy treats. The California Milk Processors Board now estimates that “an average Jack-O-Lantern [treat collection] bucket ends up carrying about 250 pieces of candy amounting to nearly 9,000 calories and close to three pounds of sugar.” In another study, as reported in a recent article, Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama – Birmingham’s School of Public Health, documented that in the group she studied, an average elementary schoolchild accumulated 3500 to 7000 calories worth of treats on a typical Halloween night. Projecting from research statistics, a 100-pound child who consumed all of those 7000 calories in a single-sitting sugar binge would need to walk briskly for almost 44 hours or play full-court basketball for more than 14 hours just to burn off those Halloween candy calories alone.

Yikes! That is a frightening prospect indeed, especially when you consider that Americans are expected to spend close to $2.6 billion on Halloween candy alone this year … and then you might recall reading also that more than ten per cent of our nation’s medical costs will be expended on treating obesity-related diseases alone.


>>> Safety considerations <<<

Remember too: Halloween hazards are not limited exclusively to the damage sweets can do to a child’s diet. Operation Safe Child, a community education outreach based in Maywood, IL, recommends the  precautions below to minimize other risks and to allow everybody to focus on having safe fun — all treats, indeed, and and no tricks, whatsoever, to regret afterwards.31820008-hand-drawn-doodle-illustration-of-police-peaked-capCaution your children to travel in groups (preferably with at least one adult chaperone), to follow all safety rules and to take along a reliable cell phone (one with the telephone number pre-listed on SPEED DIAL where they can reach you immediately in any case of need) and also a flashlight if they will be out after dark.  Make certain that they dress warmly and have unobstructed vision with any mask or facial disguise, and be sure that costumes, including footwear, are of an appropriate length and design to allow for safe footsteps. Do not permit horseplay or tricks among the children within your group while they are out collecting treasures. Limit their travel to safe, nearby areas. Caution them to stay away from unlighted alleys and other dark places. Do not allow them to take candy or money from strangers or to enter the home of anybody not well known to you beforehand. Know exactly what route they will travel and point out in advance where they can find safe haven along the way — even consider a trial walk in broad daylight a few days in advance as a dress rehearsal for the big event. Since the kiddos are traveling neighborhoods mostly on foot in search of treats, police reports document more child pedestrian accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year; so, it might be a good time to practice street safety techniques in advance (e.g.,watch out for cars; look both ways before crossing the street) and even appoint an older child as the designated “Safety Warden” with special responsibility to watch out for your group along the way.

>>> Aim for moderation <<<

Even so, the holiday shouldn’t be all scary. If children generally eat well for the rest of the year, most experts agree that you can relax and let them gobble a little candy on Halloween and maybe even consume a few additional mini pieces for a few days afterwards. The key here, of course, is M-O-D-E-R-A-T-I-O-N. From nutrition experts weighing in on the topic, I have assembled some favorite tips to introduce healthier foods — even exercise workouts — into your trick-or-treat plans, and I’ve also tossed in a few suggestions about what to do with any excess “leftover loot” once the spooky holiday has ended.


In the time leading up to Halloween I will be sharing a new suggestion each weekday for you to consider as you make your holiday celebration plans. To begin right now, here is my very first recommendation — this one aimed at controlling how much calorie-loaded, refined carbohydrate D A N G E R  you decide to acquire and stock in advance on your shelves at home:

If you plan to hand out candy, do not buy it far in advance. Purchase, instead, on Halloween morning to take advantage of last-minute sale prices — and to avoid the temptation to sample the fare beforehand. To minimize the candy wallop, always purchase the “fun-size” or “snack-size” portion options and look for lower-calorie brands such as Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers or Three Musketeers. For your own defense, pick a candy you do not like — one that will not tempt you to sneak a bite from the bag in advance.


And please come back to this HEALTHY HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN site again tomorrow to see the next in my series of innovative suggestions.  Hint: expect to find new, creative (and even HEALTHY!!) alternatives to the “same old candy” treats for those little ghosts and goblins who will soon be ringing your doorbell.

With a final word of encouragement here, experts at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind us that celebrations such as Halloween can provide a chance to give out healthy snacks, get physical activity and focus on safety without ruining the holiday fun. Visit their website for additional specific suggestions to make your festivities even more fun and safer, too, for trick-or-treaters and party guests:

More helpful online Halloween advice can be found at the following websites:


And finally, after reading all of these recommendations, you might also appreciate some of the surprising, entertaining information about Halloween, candy and general mayhem (from decidedly different viewpoints!) found in the following online articles: