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Spook-tacular Healthy Halloween Ideas: USDA Evidence-Based Ideas for a Healthy and Safe Halloween

Posted by Sheila Fleischhacker, Senior Advisor for Nutrition and Food Safety, Office of the Chief Scientist in Research and Science Food and Nutrition
Oct 31, 2017
A field of pumpkins
According to the Economic Research Service, farmers harvested roughly 1.4 billion pounds of pumpkins in the United States in 2016.

“Trick-or-treating” or more recently “Trunk-or-Treating” is a Halloween custom for many American families. According to the US Census Bureau 2015 Population Estimates, there are an estimated 41.1 million potential trick-or-treaters – children ages 5 to 14 – across the United States. Of course, children younger than 5 years old and older than 14 (adults included) enjoy celebrating Halloween.

At USDA, we recently decorated our front porch, so we understand looking for Halloween decorations can be an opportunity to transform your home into a haunted house or pumpkin patch. Playing a key role in supporting the agricultural production of pumpkins, we would be partial towards creative pumpkin patch ideas! According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, every State of the union grows pumpkins!

And remember, pumpkins are more than just house decorations! There are many healthy recipes to help us integrate these versatile vegetables that are excellent sources of vitamin A and dietary fiber.  Need help convincing your little ghost or goblin? Our USDA Team Nutrition has also compiled a variety of nutrition education and promotional materials around pumpkins and you can find more resources for teaching about pumpkins at SNAP-Ed Connection.

Now, you could stick with the pumpkin theme and give out pumpkins or pumpkin-flavored goodies to your trick- or trunk-treaters or Halloween party guests. But because of the work of our Department and federal partners, we hope you’ll consider these other healthy and safe spook-tacular ideas:

  • Focus on trick-or-treating after your child has eaten a good meal to help prevent them from overeating on candy or treats.  Numerous publications over the years from our Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine emphasize the importance of ensuring our children eat healthy meals to help them avoid unhealthy snacking and weight gain.
  • Make the healthy choices fun and festive such as sticking a little celery stick into a clementine to look like a pumpkin or putting raisins for eyes and a nose on bananas that are peeled and sliced to look like ghosts.  These “nudges” to eat healthier are informed by the USDA Economic Research Service, which plays a leading role in applying behavioral economics theories and concepts to improving food and beverage choices.
  • Avoid “nightmares” by inspecting the treats before eating them for signs of tampering such as tears in the wrapper. For very young children, remove any choking hazard such as gum. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service, among others in our Department, focus on developing data-driven food safety practices and state-of-the-art food safety education and outreach programs. Our Team Nutrition also provides ideas for celebrating Halloween with food allergies.

And finally, for costumes, we’re partial to Smokey Bear.