Tag Archive | Healthy Halloween House

so, how did it go?

Way back in the spooky month of October, just prior to Halloween, I presented a My Plate Haiku on Instagram. Not as deep perhaps as a Zen Buddhist koan, a paradoxical anecdote or riddle used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning in order to provoke enlightenment, but reflective of a puzzlement nonetheless.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while may know that in my little anachronistic village, Halloween is serious business. Hundreds and hundreds of little kiddies and big grown-ups dressed in scary–and adorable–costumes descend like zombies and crowd the narrow streets to frighten away any evil spirits–and to collect their sweet rewards. My house is in a prime trick-or-treat location and next door to the village wizards whose annual display attracts a lot of attention.


And thus, my perennial dilemma. What’s my personal and professional responsibility as concerns contributing to this massive spike in the community’s blood sugar levels? Fun though it may seem, innocuous though one might think–it is not a good thing. There is a lot of sugar going down–way more than Mary Poppin’s prescribed spoonful.

I have stared deep down into pillowcases with more loot than a bank robber’s heist, yet the pirates and ninjas demand more. I have stared deep into the big eyes and darling faces of newly walking toddler princesses and kitty cats, imploring me to fill their plastic pumpkin with some white crystallized sugar drug–I mean treat. Seriously, should there not be some legal age requirement for serving sugar to children? I feel I should be carding these kids, checking ID, asking for a birth certificate or tricycle license.

Every year, Halloween seems to come around quickly, and each time I struggle with the dilemma. Given the havoc I know sugar and sweets wreak on the individual and global level, I do not wish to be a purveyor of this potential gateway substance associated with dental decay, behavioral issues, food addiction, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and other maladies. To really appreciate the seductive allure of said substance, consider that recently, after a newly levied sugar-tax was imposed in their country, ordinarily level-headed Norwegians have wildly taken to crossing the border into Sweden to procure their candy and soda more cheaply in binge shopping sprees.

But, neither am I ready to leave the party. So, for years my family has stood at the door giving out a combination of edible sweets and non-edible treats in hopes of offering choice and mitigating damage.

But, this last All Hallows’ Eve I decided to go further. In preparation for the nearly four hundred grabbing hands and gaping mouths, I set out to find provisions that would not further the sugar problem at hand. The additional challenge was to try to not substitute it with useless items that would quickly be tossed in the garbage, and to have things that would be suitable for children of all different ages. And, to not spend more than I would on candy.

As usual, I solicited the help of my little witch, Zena, and with broomsticks in hand, off we flew to the nearest Michael’s Arts and Crafts store to fill our cauldron. We scoured about and found some things that were suitable. Also, next door wizard Amy informed me of holiday-themed milkweed seed packets available for sale to help save our important monarch butterflies. Perfect. We ordered one hundred of them.

When ready, we poured everything on the bed and got to work. We filled perky pumpkin-faced and scary skull-headed gift bags with age-appropriate treats. It was all in fun, though I must say a fair amount of dissection was involved in separating parts from wholes. There were all Halloween-themed cool sticker sheets, water-color painting pictures, stamps, little marble maze games, foam cutouts to make masks, erasers–and seed packets. Unfortunately, we did not procure the mechanical pencils which had been a big hit with the older set the previous year.

The only problems were that we ran out of the little bags and took to using business envelopes; and that Zena, being a very good witch, was a bit too generous in filling her bags which left us short of supplies to reach our projected count. But, time was short, so we’d have to make do.

It was then, in anticipation of the big day, I penned and posted to Instagram the koan-tinged haiku:

Treats of a different kind 
No candy for Halloween 
We’ll see how it goes.                                                                                                                       

(We hope they like the Save Our Monarchs Milkweed Seed Packets)

So, how did it go? Pretty well, I’d say. The house was not egged and there were no tricks. There was the one teenager–the kind who doesn’t even have a costume–who did turn and walk away when the cauldron choices were kindly presented to him. A few of the neophyte toddlers did display some cognitive dissonance provoked by being handed something they could not imagine to be the promised candy. And, there was the middle-schooler who when handed a business envelope with indeterminate contents responded by saying she did not like surprises.

But mainly, things were positive. One little girl excitedly told her folks, “We got a card!” There were shrieks of, “It’s the sticker house!” And, the teenagers, were as a whole quite appreciative at receiving something different. I’d say, it was a sign they were actually candied out. It was encouraging to see that they still could like a good, basic pencil–even a non-mechanical one.

The seed packets were mainly tucked in the bags and not really noticed in the dark, but a few who did see them thought they were cool. I hope their value was better appreciated in the light of day–with the help of parents who’d realize what they were for.

The highlight of the evening was once again when Ruth came to the door. Last year, our hearts melted when mid-evening we responded to the doorbell’s beckon to find a little girl and her family waiting. The girl handed us a piece of paper. It was a drawing of–we think–a little bat and a little pumpkin. It was hard to tell, but not bad for a four-year-old. On the back, it was signed, Ruth.


This year, Ruth came to the door with her little sister who was now old enough to stand. Their costumes were beautifully made by their grandmother. Once more, we received a personal drawing–this time of three large carved pumpkins. Ruth’s artistic abilities had increased exponentially. And, now it was signed, Ruth and Grace. This evolved soul, did not seem to expect anything in return. We told them how touched we had been last year and how excited we were to see them again.

As usual, and as we had feared, we did not have enough to make it through the night. As supplies were running low, we frantically tore sticker sheets into individual stickers and repurposed whatever we could.

At the final ring, we had only a few stray bat and pumpkin erasers left. Apologetically we held the basket out to the lone teenager who stood before us. “I’m good with erasers”, he said and graciously accepted the offering.

I tell this story now, not only because it is already less than six months until the next Halloween and time to think ahead. But, because it exposes our complicated relationship with and messaging about food. Please understand I do not maintain a staunch anti-sugar stand. I appreciate how and why we are wired to enjoy it and recognize that it is a source of joy. In my repertoire, I carry a story I once read. When the author was a young girl, her well-meaning parents presented her with an apple with a candle stuck in it, in lieu of a cake for her birthday. She cried. It is also well documented how the denial of any sugar seems to breed an uncontrollable urge for it.

But, given the state of our health and what we know about the detriments of sugar and the foods it is cloaked in, and their ubiquitous presence, can we continue to abide the excess that this holiday ritual depends on? Especially as it so strongly impacts children. Who is really benefiting from this candy deluge? The excuses that it is just for one day, and that we can use it as a way of teaching our kids about moderation, may now be too feeble.

I think it may be time for the expansion of creative alternatives. I remember as a child Trick or Treating for UNICEF, carrying a little orange box door to door to collect money for children in dire need–in faraway places. Apparently, that campaign was started in 1950 and is still around. Maybe that idea can be flipped by households choosing a cause of their choice and telling the children soliciting treats that a donation will be made on their behalf to that cause. Just thinking out loud. Honestly, I am not sure I can sustain the full no-sweets effort. However, if little Ruth can draw all those pictures for everyone–I will certainly try.

Let me know what alternative Halloween ideas you have tried.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Related Posts: Eye of the Newt, The Nightmare Before Halloween, Post Halloween Post


Bees’ My Plate


My Plate Haiku

Treats of a different kind
No candy for Halloween
We’ll see how it goes.

by Elyn






the nightmare before halloween

It has been one year almost to the date that I first began my blog. Just as I was ready to celebrate having come full circle, I realized that there was one more event in the liturgical feeding cycle to attend to in order to truly do so. Halloween.

Halloween is this nutritionist’s nightmare. It makes all my dilemmas go screaming wildly around in the scary darkness like a gathering of roaming ghosts. Starting in mid-October, I began to see discussion of these hair-raising topics appear in various articles. Some people were writing about Halloween as a sanctified binge-eating holiday. Commentary ensued on memories of guilt-encompassed candy hoarding and gorging. Then guilt- minimizing strategies were presented–instructions were offered on how to partake but not overdo; and, suggestions were given on organic, high cacao content, lower sugar, chocolate alternatives.

Then, there was the issue of the politics of chocolate–the problems of impoverished cocoa farmers, environmental degradation and the use of forced child labor on cocoa farms. With one-quarter of all candy sold annually in the US being purchased for Halloween–this is no small matter. EqualExchange, the producers of organic, fairly-traded chocolate products, sponsors a Reverse Trick or Treating Program. Trick-or-Treaters give a piece of Fair Trade chocolate attached to an informational card as a mass action to educate the public about this.

Finally, the childhood obesity issue surfaced as well. I learned of a dad from Georgia, David Soleil, whose activism was inspired by being fed up witnessing too many Halloweens–overweight parents driving cars around his neighborhood unloading their children at intervals to gather the loot; pillowcases loaded 3/4 full with candy and the endorsement of multiple pre-Halloween events. He launched a response with a movement called Healthy Halloween House where people pledge to provide a healthy trick or treat alternative. I love his slogan–“Eat the pumpkin and let the candy rot on the porch.”

So, with my own inner pillowcase filled to the brim, I informed my daughter Zena–as I do every year–that for the holiday we would be distributing some Skarrots (baby carrots packaged in fun inducing wrappers) and pencils–and that she would be doing reverse trick or treating. In her kind, gentle way she asked me to sit down. She assured me lovingly, that every other day of the year I do my part to encourage healthy eating and I have spared many children many pounds of sugar–but, she does not want to be one of those “weird” houses on the T&T trail. And then, she asked me if I have forgotten where we live.

We live in an old Victorian village of the type that inspires the imaginations of people like Tim Burton. It is truly the epicenter of Halloween. Houses are old enough to provide residence to a few generations of real ghosts, tiny streets with closely packed houses draw hundreds of trick or treaters from miles around–and our next-door neighbors are deranged, wonderful folk who do things like this and this (video).

Their preparations are usually quite furtive, though they say things to me like, “Did we tell you we got a snowmaking machine?”, or ask, “Do you have a fire extinguisher? Good.”

So, heeding Zena’s words, and not even knowing where to buy hundreds of bags of Scarrots; and not convinced kids would really use the cutesy pencils that trees gave their lives for, I backed down. Still, I knew I personally would not be able to buy the drugs–I mean candy–nor distribute it. In cowardly fashion, I assign the purchasing to my husband, Pete or to the friends I invite for the festivity of the evening; and the distribution to whatever available child or visiting foreign exchange student I can find.

Figuring out the amount we need requires a complicated quadratic equation and often we have miscalculated. This means that we have to indenture our own children and recycle the booty they have worked hard for, or we have to run upstairs and hide in the dark, pretending we are not home.

Halloween evening was perfect this year. The weather was gentle with only a touch of autumn’s crisp bite in the air. At the witching hour, all the creatively-costumed children emerged from their homes and took immediately to their task. As we were simultaneously welcoming friends, warming the cider, finishing the pumpkins, adjusting costumes and oohing and aahing at the little munchkins crowding the porch–we realized we were going to be in trouble early.

As I was frantically emptying the bags into the cauldron, trying to appease the munchkins turned monsters now knocking down the door, one of my guests said that the contents of candy bags had gotten smaller. He was right and this was seriously offsetting the math. Later, with the cauldron barren, we found ourselves sitting with the lights out–considering giving away some of our tchotchkes, artwork, cats and used pencils.

Early in the evening, a Jedi knight informed Pete, that he required two offerings. His headless horseman friend explained that he was making up for last year. Amused, Pete was about to challenge this request, but the Little Red Ridinghood mother bared her big teeth, said he was in the hospital then and snatched a candy for herself. Next year we may ask for discharge papers or a gnawed off wrist band.

So, once again, we gaped at our neighbors’ amazing creation– which draws hordes of happy revelers–spun through the few hours of insane madness, walked the streets with our friends–and it all eventually quieted down. We were reverse trick or treated, and there was actually some healthy and adorable popcorn to be found.

At the end of the night, I removed my Bob Cratchet ba-humbug costume, enjoyed a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or few and imagined that everyone will be needing a nutritionist come morning’s tolling of the bells.

What does Halloween bring up for you?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Post Halloween Post; The Eye of the Newt; So, How Did It Go?

Related Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins by Cookie+Kate


Halloween My Plate


My Plate Haiku

Eat the Pumpkin

Let the candy rot on the porch.

by the guy in Georgia