It's the time of year health-minded parents across the nation dread: Halloween. While I love and cherish celebrating holidays and the changing of the seasons, I loathe the trappings of Halloween - and Christmas, too, for that matter. What once we honored with care, storytelling and feasts from a local harvest we now celebrate with mass-market plastic trinkets and candies laced with neurotoxic food coloring and genetically engineered emulsifiers and processing agents. As with many traditions, we've lost our focus.
Change the Focus of Halloween
While trick-or-treating is, undoubtedly, the single activity most people associate with Halloween, that doesn't have to be the case. Indeed, focusing on other aspects of celebrating Halloween and minimizing, but not avoiding, trick-or-treating and candy can help to flesh out the fall holiday. Place extra emphasis on carving the jack-o-lantern, preparing wholesome autumn-inspired treats, creating costumes, story-telling or visiting age-appropriated haunted houses. You might even take the kids on a day-time visit to a historic cemetery in effort to learn more about your community and its early settlers. By focusing on other aspects of the holiday, you can engage your children in a more holistic celebration rather than one that only feeds the pockets of candy manufacturers to the detriment of your children's health.
Host a Halloween Feast
Consider how fondly we think of Thanksgiving with its turkeys, hams, sauces, sides and pies. Why not celebrate Halloween with a similar feast? Set aside time to create a supper filled with special, seasonal foods - foods that are just a touch above and beyond your everyday fare. Roast a leg of lamb and serve it alongside braised root vegetables, baked apples, pumpkin custard or molasses cookies. Prepare a cauldron of simmering mulled wine for the adults and older children and spiced cider for the young children. Whatever meal you prepare, make it special and unique so that you look forward to it all year and your children will want to continue your new-found tradition in their homes once they're grown.
Offer Healthier Halloween Treats
While I believe trick-or-treating and candy should not be the primary focus of Halloween, neither do I believe we should avoid it completely. What child wants to feel left out? What mom wants her house TPed because she was the only scrooge on the block not to offer treats to assuage tricksters? Instead, prepare goodie bags filled with wholesome treats like sesame candies, spiced cookies or yogurt taffy for the children you know well and, for the children you don't know well, consider handing out small organic chocolates (free from soy lecithin and GMO sugar), ginger chews, boxes of crayons, packages of nuts, dime store toys or other goodies in lieu of candy made from GM soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, artificial colors and other worrisome components from industrial food manufacturers.
Consider Reverse Trick-or-Treating
If you believe in food activism, consider reverse trick-or-treating. The chocolate industry is plagued by some very serious social problems including persistent child slavery. Children - usually aged between 12 and 14 years old are forced to work at cocoa farms in West Africa for 80 to 100 hours per week. They're denied education, adequate nutrition and suffer severe, routine beatings. All of this to feed the west's addiction to chocolate. Teach your children about the importance of taking a stand by participating in reverse trick-or-treating. Simply by a few bags of fair trade chocolate, print a few flyers, and go door-to-door handing fair trade candies to residents in effort to raise awareness about the plight of children held as slaves to support the cheap chocolate industry.
Invite the Candy Fairy for a Visit
In our home, we invite the Candy Fairy for a visit on Halloween and other candy-filled holidays. After a short round of trick-or-treating, the children may bundle up their candies and set them aside for the sweet-toothed Candy Fairy who comes under the dark cloak of night, takes the candy and leaves a bundle of much-sought-after toys in the candy's place. While not a perfect solution, the Candy Fairy keeps the candy from your babies' bellies.
Load Up on Foods Rich in B Vitamins
Inevitably, your child will come across some sugary sweets this Halloween - a taste from the candy bag, from well-meaning strangers who don't listen to the word "No," or even from your own homemade, treats. Sugar depletes B vitamins, so stay one step ahead by making sure to have foods rich in B vitamins on hand for Halloween and the days following the holiday. Liver (try chicken liver pâté), beef, nutritional yeast, kombucha and fermented foods present good sources of B vitamins.
In the end, do what you can, and have fun.