Before you give me the evil eye, let me assure you that I have always loved Halloween and all the creativity it inspires, and my sweet tooth has always enjoyed the unlimited supply of candy bars. But as a woman who tries to watch what I eat, and as a parent who cares about nutrition and dental bills, I am sometimes overwhelmed with all of the sweets that cross our threshold on October 31st. How do we avoid eating too much of it, and how do we ensure our kids don’t gobble their loot at the expense of more nutritious fare? (Don’t worry. I’m going to get to that marvelous mac and cheese recipe in a minute!)
The first night, Solomon and Celia are usually more interested in gathering, sorting and counting the loot than actually eating it all. But as kids become ‘tweens who can cover more ground on Halloween and come home with giant sacks of junk, I am looking for new approaches to coping with all the sweets.
I turned to other clever parents to share some of their imaginative solutions to candy overload. If you have any ideas to add, please share them below.
“The Good Witch’ comes to our house. My kids pick 10-15 pieces that they want to keep and have over the next couple of weeks. The rest goes out on the front porch. She takes the candy sometime during the night and leaves a small present like a book or puzzle for them to find the next morning. They are now 8 and 9 and still love this tradition!”
Colleen Gallagher Roess, Savage, MN
“Years ago I instituted the Great Candy Buyback program. At the end of trick-or-treating the kids sort their candy and select 10 – 20 pieces, and then I buy the rest back. I give them $20 for it, and a day or two later we go shopping for a toy or game. This keeps momma honest, too. I save only 10 or 20 pieces for myself in a “chocolate jar” so I don’t snack my way into larger sized jeans.
Karen Smith, St. Charles, IL
“In my house we offer a few plans to choose from. You can either eat whatever you want for three days and throw the rest away, or you can eat one piece a day for as long as your interest lasts. We now have an orthodontist who will buy the candy from us for $2 per pound, so cold hard cash will be the third option this year.”
Sherry Ettleson, Washington, DC
Click here to search for a dentist near you that buys back candy to send to the troops.
The Sneaky Approach
“My daughter eats a lot of candy the first night, and even the first few days, then I start weeding it out to the garbage a little at a time and she never notices. ”
Kathy Lange Slocum, Seattle, WA
“I have something to share but you’d have to keep me anonymous because I don’t want people to know how crazy I really am. I always have a really hard time controlling myself around the kids’ Halloween candy, so a few years ago, we went out and bought what we call “the candy box”. It is a box with a combination on it that only the kids and my husband know. They can go into it for dessert (and sometimes they share with me), but I can’t go in and raid it when they’re not around, because I don’t have the code. ”
Piñatas, Gingerbread Houses and Other Creative Ideas
“When we lived in Mexico I used to save the candy to use in the birthday piñatas!”
Jeanne Rossomme, Chevy Chase, MD
“Last year we saved the extra candies to use on our gingerbread houses. We always start those the day after Thanksgiving.”
Vicki Means, Ojai, CA
“We pick out enough candy for seven days following the 31st. Then we give it to people who need it more than us. Even though it is not the healthiest, most local food banks and charities are willing to take our leftover candy each year.”
Rachelle White, Bear Lake, MI
Feed Them Before Trick-or-Treating
Fill up your little goblins’ bellies with some good nutrition before they hit the sidewalks, so they won’t be eating sweets on an empty stomach. Here is one of my family’s favorite irresistible Halloween dinners:
Looking for some not-too-sweet Halloween treats for class parties or after school snacks? My children, Celia and Solomon, made this video to show your kids how to make a few of our favorite snacks.
For a recipe for creamy pumpkin-apple soup that is suitable for all ages, The Homemade Baby Food Recipes Blog. Or try this lovely recipe for Pumpkin Soup Without the Fuss that suggests using canned pumpkin and applesauce.
Recipe: Lighter Macaroni and Cheese
This lower fat version of macaroni and cheese is popular with kids and adults. Serve it with steamed broccoli.
- 16 oz. macaroni, whole wheat or regular
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or one 14.5 oz. can plus 1 1/2 oz. of water)
- 1 tsp. dry mustard powder (such as Coleman’s)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 Tbsp. bread crumbs or panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 1 – 2 tsp. olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- Optional garnish: 1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (unless you plan to bake the casserole later). Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large pot, cook the macaroni for 6-8 minutes (or just a minute less than directed on the box for whole wheat noodles) and drain it thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir it for a minute. Add the broth and mustard and whisk thoroughly. Simmer it for a few minutes, until the pasta is done. Reduce the heat to low and add the Cheddar cheese to the saucepan, stirring until it melts. Add the cooked macaroni and mix thoroughly.
- For the topping, mix the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs or panko together, then stir in the olive oil to bind the topping a bit. Put the macaroni mixture in the casserole dish and sprinkle the topping over the casserole. (At this point you can refrigerate it for up to a day until you are ready to bake it, or you can cook it and serve or freeze it.)
- Bake it, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until it is lightly browned on top. (While the casserole cooks, prepare the broccoli.)