Healthy Halloween Alternatives

Johanna Eichner, Sodexo Dietetic Intern

 Halloween has been associated with “treats” since the 1950s including toys, coins, nuts and rarely a baked treat for children in creative costumes. The use of candy became a marketing tool in the 1970s to boost Fall sales for candy companies which were notoriously low at that time of year. Handing out treats like candy was an alternative activity to the “tricks” that commonly occur on Halloween. Parents used candy to keep their children out of trouble (1). Halloween without candy is like peanut butter without jelly, right? Growing up, my family celebrated all of the national American holidays. The overall theme during these holidays is that it’s okay to overeat and stuff yourself, even though your body is telling you it’s full. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying, “It’s a holiday so the calories don’t count”. My goal is to emphasize the importance of using the term “sometimes foods” for treats we celebrate certain holidays with, as well as give non-food suggestions for those who plan to give out treats at the end of this month.

Research shows that people who associate food with “bad” have increased risk of eating disorders, overeating, obesity and an overall negative relationship with food (2). Food used as a reward or incentive can cause unhealthy habits like impulsive eating (3). Different foods in moderation is a major component of a healthy lifestyle and can be called “sometimes” food (4). Holidays like Halloween are historically marketed to children using candy and that is out of our control. What we can control is how we view candy as tasty but not nutritious. Try forming healthy habits with your friends and family. It’s important to eat nutritious foods first and then celebrate occasionally with a treat if we have room left. Use this link to guide you through having a healthy conversation and some activities to talk to children about the role of food how-talk-your-children-about-food-in-healthy-manner.

With some planning and creativity, you can draw the attention away from candy during Halloween. Focus on having fun! Here are some suggestions that the trick-or-treaters will enjoy:

  • Halloween pencils, stickers, erasers
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Key chains
  • Activity books like Mad Libs
  • Whistles
  • Bouncy balls
  • Mini Play-Doh
  • Money for UNICEF

The Teal Pumpkin Project also supports non-food items given out to trick-or-treaters, keeping those with food allergies safe. A teal painted pumpkin on your step signals to trick-or-treaters with food allergies that there are non-food treats available to them, in addition to candy. This allows the inclusion of someone who may not be able to eat Halloween candy due to diet restrictions.

Don’t stop here! These tips can be used throughout the year for other holidays and even special events like birthdays.


  1. Kelly, S., & Riach, K. (2018). Halloween, Organization, and the Ethics of Uncanny Celebration. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-12.
  2. Oakes, M. E. (2017). Bad foods: Changing attitudes about what we eat. Routledge, Chapter 1.
  3. Schag, K., Schönleber, J., Teufel, M., Zipfel, S., & Giel, K. E. (2013). Food‐related impulsivity in obesity and Binge Eating Disorder–a systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 14(6), 477-495.
  4. Faith, M. S., Scanlon, K. S., Birch, L. L., Francis, L. A., & Sherry, B. (2004). Parent‐child feeding strategies and their relationships to child eating and weight status. Obesity research, 12(11), 1711-1722.