Fall is my favorite time of year, so it only makes sense that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the chill in the air…the spooky decorations…the fun festivities like carving pumpkins, going on haunted hayrides, and dressing up in costume…the scary and not-so-scary movies (hello, Hocus Pocus!)…and the way Halloween lets you go back to feeling and acting like a kid for a day. And then, of course, there’s the candy!
While I’m all for indulging in moderation—sometimes you just need a piece of chocolate and not a carrot!—I think it’s a good idea to have healthy alternatives on hand to lessen the damage when a severe craving strikes. I also think it’s important to have a game plan for avoiding treats around Halloween—as well as the ensuing holiday season—so that you stay on track with your goals and don’t fall (back) into unhealthy habits.
Here are some ideas for healthy Halloween treats as well as some tips for avoiding that evil candy bowl.
Healthy Halloween Treats
Dark Chocolate – Eating a little bit of dark chocolate (60 percent cocoa or higher) won’t wreck your diet or your waistline (and it can actually improve your skin). Just be sure you stick to a serving—typically two squares of a full-size bar or one snack-size piece. Also look at the label to make sure it’s full of quality ingredients; sugar should be one of the last ingredients. It’s also a good idea to stay away from varieties that have unnatural (and sweetened) fillings like caramel, mint, or raspberry.
Dark Chocolate-Covered Bananas – This is one of my favorite healthy treats and a good way to use up overripe bananas. Cut a banana into small half-inch circles. Melt a couple ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips in the microwave according to package directions. Once chocolate is melted, dip the banana circles, one at a time, into the chocolate. Use a fork to dip the bananas, one at a time, into the chocolate; let any excess chocolate drip off before transferring the banana to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (Note: You can dip just one half of the banana piece or cover the entire piece.) Let the chocolate-covered bananas set, about 20 minutes. I like to freeze mine so that they keep longer (you don’t have to eat them all at once or in a few days) and they also take longer to eat.
Dried Fruit – The sweetness and texture of dried fruit can be a good substitute when you’re craving those Swedish Fish, Gummy Bears, or Fruit Snacks. But be careful: dried fruit is calorie dense and still high in sugar. Add some nuts or seeds to the mix to prevent a blood sugar spike, which can cause you to go back for more.
Quest Bars – While these should be used in place of a meal and not as a treat due to their high calorie count (180 – 210 calories), the Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Cookies and Cream Quest bars can definitely satisfy a serious candy bar craving. Just make sure you factor the calories and macros into your daily diet.
Caramel Popcorn – Once you pop, you just can’t stop! Try making this healthy caramel corn recipe which uses coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla in place of refined sugar.
In addition to the healthy alternatives above, you can also try making homemade versions of your favorite Halloween candy, which can greatly reduce the calories, sugar and fat content. Here are some ideas:
- Peanut M&M’s – Dip raw peanuts in melted dark or bittersweet chocolate chips.
- Raisinetes – Try using dried prunes instead of raisins to reduce the sugar and increase the fiber content.
- Mounds or Almond Joy – Use unsweetened shredded coconut and add sweetness and flavor with coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Shape the mixture into little mounds and drizzle or dunk them into melted chocolate. Try this recipe for homemade Almond Joy and Mounds bars.
Find more healthy Halloween candy recipes to make at home here.
Tricks to Avoid Tempting Halloween Treats
The bad thing about Halloween is how long all that candy lingers around. We’re not only exposed to it early in the grocery stores (shelves are practically stocked with Halloween candy before Labor Day), but after Halloween night, you have candy leftover if you didn’t have many trick-or-treaters, or you have a plethora of new treats that your own little trick-or-treaters brought home. And it sits there every day…starring you in the face…tempting you to have “just one more.”
I found myself mindlessly digging into the bag of S’mores candy corn (yes, there is such a thing—and they’re dangerous!) practically every time I was in the kitchen. Even though I would only have one or two, over the course of the day I could have easily eaten a full serving, which is 150 calories and 28 grams of sugar!
I ended up throwing out the rest of the bag, especially once I realized I was the only one eating them. If you live with others, you may not have the option to throw out the junk. Or if you have kids, you’ll be the “worse mom ever” if you toss your kids’ trick-or-treat bags when they return home Halloween night. Whatever the case may be, here are some tips and tricks to avoid eating or overeating Halloween candy:
- Buy it late and then get rid of it. How many times have you had to go back to the store to get candy for Halloween night because you already went through your stash for trick-or-treaters? Avoid the temptation—and save money—by buying your Halloween candy a day or two before Halloween. This way you’ll have less time to be tempted. Also, often the only candy that’s left in stores this late is the stuff most people don’t like.
- Buy candy you don’t like. Don’t set yourself up by buying your favorite candy. Go for the stuff you don’t really care for that way you’ll be less tempted and less likely to eat it.
- Put it away. To avoid temptation, don’t leave the candy bowl out. If you have kids, keep their candy bags in the pantry so it’s out of sight and out of mind—to both you and them.
- Drink something. We often mistake thirst for hunger. If you get a craving, try drinking a glass of water. Or if water is too plain and not satisfying your craving, try a calorie-free beverage like sparkling water, diet soda, crystal light, a cup of light or diet hot chocolate, or a cup of tea. I recently bought Celestial Seasonings Carmel Apple Dream Tea and it is so good! It will satisfy any hankering for a caramel apple or apple pie.
- Go for a walk. Walk out of the kitchen…and then keep going. Take a walk outside or just go upstairs. You’ll remove yourself from the situation and give your mind a chance to focus on something else other than your craving.
- Allow yourself one piece of candy a day, if you want it. It’s OK to enjoy treats in moderation, and sometimes if you suppress a craving for too long, you just end up binging on it. And you don’t want that to happen when you have a big candy bowl present. Instead, give yourself permission to have one piece of candy a day. When you eat it, take the time to sit down and truly enjoy it. You’ll be more satisfied if you pay attention instead of just tossing a piece in your mouth as you run around, watch TV or peruse your social media news feed.
- Chew sugar-free gum. This is my go-to trick for avoiding sweets, especially after dinner when cravings hit. It gives your mouth a burst of sweetness and something to do instead of eating. It can also help you relive stress, which may be the cause of your candy craving in the first place.
- Wear a tight costume or outfit. If you’re attending a Halloween party or event, you’ll be more mindful of what you eat if your clothing is a little snug or revealing.
I hope you find these healthy Halloween treats and tips helpful.
Do you have any healthy Halloween recipes or alternatives? How do you stop yourself from eating too much Halloween candy?