Compared to 100 years ago, the amount of added sugar in our food supply is staggering. While the initial risks of having so much sugar in kids’ diets was downplayed, it’s looking more and more like something we should be taking seriously.

The American Heart Association recommends that children consume no more than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day, but the average child has much more than that—80 grams (19 teaspoons) every day. Of course, that number will be substantially higher on a night when they’ve gone door-to-door collecting candy!

It’s sad to see the rates of conditions such as fatty liver and Type 2 Diabetes on the rise, especially when it involves kids as young as five years old, but here we are. It’s no surprise, therefore, that parents may be looking for ways to keep things under control on Halloween night. If you’re among them, here are some steps you can take to enjoy all of the spooky fun without all the sugar.

Eat a Good Dinner

It seems like trick-or-treating start times are getting earlier, but that’s no excuse to skip dinner. In fact, it’s more important than ever to make sure your child has a full belly before loading up on the sweet stuff. The goal is to make them less likely to overindulge.

This isn’t the night for pizza, either. If you can, choose the healthiest, most nutrient-packed meal your child will eat. Stick to proteins and vegetables, both of which tend to be lower in sugar.

Make It a One-Night Event

Your child might come home with a pillowcase full of candy, but that doesn’t mean they need to eat all of it. In fact, even if it’s spread out over a few days, they’ll still be consuming way more sugar than their body needs.

Let them indulge on Halloween night, and then practice portion control. Allow them to take a piece of candy with them for lunch every day, if their school permits it. Encourage them to trade the remainder of their candy with you for a toy or fun activity. Get creative while also explaining why sugar is best consumed in moderation. 

Give Out Candy-Free Treats

Parents might be reluctant to give out non-candy treats on Halloween for fear of seeming like a buzzkill, but the truth is that kids may not care as much as we think. One study out of Yale University showed that kids were just as happy with toys on Halloween as they were with candy. What are some things you can give them instead? 

  • Mini Play-Doh
  • Glowsticks
  • Halloween-themed trinkets (look at the dollar store!)
  • Flashlights

Try to think of other small items your child might enjoy on Halloween, and make a little goodie bag for them. Chances are, they’ll get more use out of whatever you give them than they would from a piece of candy.

Have a Costume Party

Shift the focus on Halloween away from candy and onto the other fun elements of the holiday. Whether it’s only your family or with a few invited friends, you could hold a costume party and have a truly great night. You might even skip the candy entirely.

Plan an age-appropriate movie marathon and make some healthier snacks for the gang. Turn oranges into healthier, edible jack-o-lanterns or put a few chocolate chips on peeled bananas to make “ghosts.”

This Halloween, you can absolutely reduce the amount of sugar your family consumes without it becoming a downer. Have a positive attitude, try new things and think outside the box. You might just start some new traditions!