original2Halloween can be a scary time for people struggling with their weight. The grocery store aisles are lined with super savings on chocolates and candies and commercials are telling you to stock up at home for the herds of young trick-or-treaters headed your way. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the average American eats around 25 pounds of candy each year and having all those sugary sweets around can make staying healthy even harder.But Halloween doesn’t have to be a holiday you fear. Here are seven suggestions to make it a healthier, fun, and festive celebration for everyone in your family:

1. Pillowcases trick-or-treaters carry can hold hundreds of pieces of candy. Instead, opt for smaller vessels so kids feel accomplished sooner. This way you won’t be coming home with pounds and pounds of tempting treats.

2. When children arrive home, offer a candy “trade-in” program for money or other non-food prizes or gifts.

3. Halloween candy should be considered a “treat” with rules set for how much children can have each day and when they can have it. Set a good example by implementing this rule for yourself too.

4. Participate in community events that are harvest-themed instead of focused on candy. Bob for apples, decorate scarecrows, dress up, play games and meet new friends. Some schools, churches and community centers even host scavenger hunts that incorporate lots of walking but swap candy for healthy treats or points that can be redeemed for prizes.

5. Have children pick their favorite types of candy to save and share the rest. Go a step further by donating leftovers to local women’s shelters or community candy buy-back programs.

6. If you decide to buy candy for trick-or-treaters, choose candy that won’t tempt YOU to indulge. Hate chewy treats that stick to your teeth? Get those instead of your favorites. That way you’ll be happy to pass out handfuls to the young goblins and ballerinas that arrive at your door. And when the night is over, you’ll be happy to be rid of them instead of reaching in the bowl for yourself.

7. Avoid the post-Halloween clearance on candy. Retailers will need to unload the huge stockpile of candy they’ve amassed in store and will look to consumers to take advantage of hefty sales to clear the aisles. Stay away!

A new approach this year might be just what you need. How about passing out something sweet but healthy, while getting into the spirit of Halloween by dressing the part? Here are some fun ideas:

· Individual packets of nuts or dried fruits would be perfect coming from someone dressed as a hiker or farmer.

· Animal crackers complement carnival, magician or clown costumes.

· Baseball players can toss peanuts or Cracker Jacks to crowds for a nostalgic treat that even comes with a prize!

· Movie stars can pass out popcorn – everyone’s favorite for movie nights!

· Teachers can reward good pupils with packs of apple slices.

· Dressing up as a doctor, dentist or nurse? Give patients that arrive at your door a dose of mouthwash, toothpaste or dental floss in travel sizes. You might even want to include a prescription to floss daily!

While you can always go the non-traditional route and give out something other than a food item such as un-sharpened pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos, mini puzzles, or little toys, chances are you’re planning to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters at your house or you’re one of the 81% of parents who will partake in their child’s candy haul.With no nutritional value, most candies are loaded with sugar, filling you up with empty calories, contributing to weight gain and tooth decay.As October 31 draws near, we all have a great opportunity to teach kids that healthy alternatives can be fun alternatives, along with the importance of practicing all things in moderation. I hope these suggestions have inspired you, and that you’ll enjoy a happy and healthy Halloween!

What are some of your favorite alternatives to candy? How do you stay healthy around Halloween? Leave a comment and let us know!