How to Have a Healthy Halloween
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How to Have a Healthy Halloween

Trick-or-treating safety, smart Halloween costumes, healthy treats, pumpkin carving help, and special celebrations.

Trick-or-Treating Safety

Clown and Ghost Costumes
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Be sure to trick-or-treat with a

Whether you're a homeowner or a young trick-or-treater, Halloween can be one of best holidays. It doesn't require a huge gathering of people, or days spent baking and cooking in the kitchen like Thanksgiving and Christmas so often do. Instead, you get to dress up as someone completely different, and you get candy for doing so!

But Halloween does have its pitfalls -- most notably the stomachache you get from eating too much candy corn. Or the smashed pumpkins on your doorstep. Indeed, millions of kids running around in the dark and eating tons of chocolate is a recipe for mischief and more.

So we've compiled a guide to having a healthy Halloween -- everything from safe pumpkin-carving tips to candy alternatives. Enjoy!

Tips for Teen Trick-or-Treaters

1. Travel in groups. Go only to the houses of people you know. Younger children should be accompanied by a responsible older person.

2. Carry flashlights.

3. Carry a mobile phone for quick communication.

4. Stay focused on your surroundings. If harassed or threatened, go into the closest store/restaurant and ask to use the phone. Call parents and/or police. Let the proprietors know that your group feels unsafe.

5. Be very cautious around jack-o'-lanterns with lit candles. Keep an eye out for flames and/or candles on porches.

6. Consider alternatives to trick-or-treating. Alternatives include house or school parties or volunteering at a haunted-house project.

Tips for Drivers

1. Clear the driver's view. Be sure that neither the driver's costume nor anything else in the car obstructs the driver's view.

2. Wear a seat belt. Be sure your passengers are wearing a safety belt, even if they have to take off part of their costume to attach it.

3. Drive slowly and defensively. Don't assume that a pedestrian, especially an excited youngster in a costume, will move as you expect. Keep an eye out for trick-or-treaters darting out from parked cars.

Tips for Homeowners

1. Replace burned-out bulbs in exterior lights. Leave your exterior lights on later than usual -- perhaps even all night.

2. Clear the pathway. Make sure the path to your door is well lighted and your lawn is clear of things that could be tripped over, such as jack-o'-lanterns with lit candles, ladders, garden hoses, flowerpots, bikes, and animal leashes.

3. Sweep wet leaves from sidewalks and stairs.

4. Keep excitable pets away from the door. You'll have a safer and calmer house if you keep Fido away from where you are dispensing the treats.

5. Put your car in the garage. Lock your garage doors.

Smart Costumes

Child in Scarecrow Costume
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Use nontoxic and hypoallergenic
makeup instead of masks this

Creating a costume is often the best part of Halloween. After all, it's the only time you can proudly answer your door in green hair and whimsical makeup.

Of course, costumes can be hazardous too, especially for kids. Remember E.T.'s obstructed vision in his ghost costume? And whether you're going as a wicked witch or a playful bag of jelly beans, keep in mind that Halloween weather is seldom warm. (Unless of course you live closer to the equator than we do.) So here are some more smart costume tips for young trick-or-treaters.

Costume Safety Tips

1. Use face paint or makeup. Look for nontoxic and hypoallergenic makeup instead of masks, especially for very young children. Masks can make it hard for youngsters to see and breathe.

2. Wigs and beards shouldn't cover the eyes or mouth. Be sure headgear won't slide over the child's face.

3. Add reflective tape to costumes. Choose light colors. Be sure the costume is not too heavy for the child. Accessories such as wands should be soft and flexible.

4. Costumes should be short enough so the child won't trip. Sleeves should fit properly, as well. Avoid footwear that makes it hard to walk.

5. Use flame-resistant fabric for homemade costumes.


All That Candy

After a while, all those Sweet Tarts, Snickers bars, and lollipops are enough to make a person swear off Halloween forever. Certainly your heart and arteries will thank you, not to mention your dentist and your scale.

It's a good idea to eat lots of fruits and vegetables in the days and weeks before and after Halloween. And consider eliminating desserts from your family's diet -- they'll have plenty of candy to satisfy their sweet tooth. Try these healthy-eating tips too:

If you're suffering from candy overload, so are your trick-or-treaters. So this year, be the neighborhood hero and hand out apples instead of Junior Mints. After six chocolate bars, children will relish the juicy treat. Or if fruit isn't your thing, stickers and small toys can go a long way, too. Here are some more candy alternatives:

Alternative Treats

  • Halloween stickers
  • Halloween pencils
  • Halloween erasers
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Plastic spider rings
  • Small toys
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Miniature boxes of raisins
  • Coins -- how about a new state quarter?
  • Individual packages of cheese or peanut butter crackers or pretzels
  • Boxes of fruit juice
  • Gel pens
  • Key chains
  • Squeeze-foam balls

Pumpkin Carving and Celebrations

Did you know that pumpkin is actually an excellent source of vitamin A? Can you guess how much money we spend on Halloween candy each year? And do you know why masks are a Halloween staple? (Hint: It has something to so with an ancient Celtic tradition.) Find out the answers to these questions, and get more Fun and Freaky Halloween Facts.

Parties & Festivities

Halloween is a wonderful excuse to get together with family and friends, and dressing in costume is grounds for a good laugh and a good time. Who will ever forget your favorite Republican friends dressed in Bill and Hillary Clinton masks? Or your husband masquerading as you in a bathrobe and slippers? And of course, Halloween offers a plethora of creative ideas for party food, games, and activities.

Plus, if you're hosting the party, you can make it healthy for your guests and your kids. Here are some ideas to help you put together a freaky festival of fun:

Pumpkin Carving Help

No Halloween is complete without jack-o'-lanterns. And spending the afternoon carving pumpkins is an excellent family activity. Take a special trip to your local pumpkin patch or grocery store so everyone can choose their own. Follow these pumpkin carving tips for the best results:

If you have young children, or if you don't have a good carving knife, you can skip the carving and go for these spooky stencils instead.

Have a safe and healthy Halloween!

Originally published on, with additional reporting by Stephanie Jones Wagle, August 2004.