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Tactics for Limiting Sugar Without Feeling Like the Halloween Grinch

The following is a guest post from Simple Kids editor Kara Fleck.

As the end of October approaches, so does the annual dilemma for families who choose to celebrate Halloween: how to find that happy medium that allows your kids to have fun and enjoy the day without an overindulgence in candy and sweets.

Here are a few ideas that I hope can help keep parents, kids, and dentists happy this Halloween.

The Sugar Plum Fairy

While Halloween is one of the few times a year we allow candy at our house, we don’t want our kids to go overboard with excessive consumption of it either. One great solution that limits the amount of candy, yet keeps the magic of the holiday,  is a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy.

When our little trick or treaters come home, we have the kids pick out a few pieces of candy to eat and the rest we leave out for the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Fairy comes during the night, takes our candy (she brings it back to Sugar Plum Land where they use candy to build their cottages) and leaves something fun, like a small toy or a craft kit, in exchange.  I don’t think that a cool tooth brush would be totally inappropriate or ill-received as part of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s gifts either.

We leave it up to the kids if they would like to exchange their candy, but so far we haven’t had anyone decline a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Set a Limit on Time and Distance

Instead of spending a couple of hours going door to door accumulating candy you don’t want your child to have, set more reasonable time limit or only trick or treat on your block or side of the street.  This gives your kids the fun of trick or treating and showing off their costumes, but keeps the actual amount of treats received to a minimum.

Change the Venue

Look for alternatives to the traditional door to door trick or treating.  In our town the fire department hosts a Halloween party and we like to attend the local Zoo Boo each year.  Yes, there will still be some candy, but not in the amounts that going door to door yields.

Shift the Focus

Make the candy less of a big deal and elevate the other traditions associated with the holiday.  Focus on the costumes, dressing up, and acting silly.  Make lots of crafts together and decorate your home with your creations.  Carve pumpkins.  Make a list of your favorite Halloween movies and shows and watch them together.

Consider Candy Alternatives

My kids love to trick or treat, but we also really enjoy staying at home and answering the door to the costumed characters who show up on our front porch. It can be difficult, I’ll admit, to come up with kid-pleasing “treats” that I feel good about handing out.

This year, when shopping for Halloween loot, I decided to bypass the $10 bags of mixed candy and walked over to the school supplies aisle instead, where I purchased crayons. Crayons are bright and colorful like candy and have kid appeal.  If you have the time and resources, you can even make your own shaped crayons like Homemade by Jill.


If you don’t feel like you can eliminate ALL candy from your goodie basket without marking your home as a target for Halloween pranks, try going at least half non-candy.  This year we’re handing out a mix of crayons and YummyEarth Organic Lollipops, which is a compromise that I think both parents and kids can feel good about.

What about you? How do you deal with this most sugary time of year? What do you suggest as an alternative to handing out candy to trick’or’treaters?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Becca

    Another tip is to encourage your children to share their candy. I remember at my school at Christmas, we would fill shoe boxes with small toys and sweets to send to third world countries – it could be part of the Halloween ritual to make up boxes of food for less fortunate children. There are always shelters for victims of domestic violence, and food banks who could do with additional help.

    • Kara @Simple Kids

      What a great idea, Becca! I’m going to look into this more and see if there are any programs like this in my area.

  2. Pam

    We’re looking forward to collecting candy at Halloween this year so we can do candy experiments: We already did the Skittle density rainbow and it was so cool!

    • Loralee

      So glad you liked the Skittles rainbow! That’s a fun one. Thanks for sharing.

      Candy experiments made our family look forward to Halloween too. We get new kinds of candy and wonder how we can experiment on it–what it will do in water, will it melt, how much acid is in it? It’s new lab material.

  3. Kara

    This is not my idea…but one of my neighbors has a hot chocolate stop. They pass out dixie cups with some cocoa to warm up the trick or treaters. I think the small drink has less sugar than a candy bar and is a fun, different idea. I haven’t passed out Halloween candy since high school, so I don’t know what I’m going to do.

  4. Christy

    Wow! Great ideas. My little guy is two this year, so it will be our first Halloween where Candy is a temptation. Thanks for all the great suggestions. I love the idea of crayons & lollipops. And the Sugar Plum Fairy concept is simply brilliant!

  5. greendragonfly

    Personally, I think a once a year fun fest on candy isn’t that big of a deal. We did it as kids and I don’t remember my mom ever limiting us on how much of it we could eat. My brother and I would quickly finish off our loot in a week or less and our sister would still have it the next summer. What I remember of that time is fun and a break from the rules. Something that I think we all need. And, none of us kids are over weight, nor have more than a couple of cavities nor do any of us binge on sugar items as adults. Providing a “holiday” gave us some balance… So, when my 2 year old is old enough, she too will be able to have a fun day with candy. Sugar is not terrible on the occasional basis…. what we as parents need to be teaching is balance and self restraint, not deprivation.

    • Kara @Simple Kids

      I agree – everything in moderation, including moderation, as they say 🙂

      Yes, to teaching balance and self-restraint, not deprivation. I like the way you phrased that.

  6. Talya

    I LOVE the crayon idea. We are not living stateside at the moment, but you can bet that this will be something i will give out the next time we celebrate Halloween i the US again!

  7. canuck_grad

    Do older kids not go trick-or-treating in your area Kara? In my area, there are lots of little kids, but lots of pre-teens/early teens too, and I don’t think they’d be thrilled about a little bundle of crayons lol.

    • Kara @Simple Kids

      Yes, I thought of that, LOL Hopefully lollipops will be okay for those whom crayons won’t seem like a good treat 🙂

      We’ve done the popcorn that someone else suggested, too and that seems to always be a hit.

  8. Julia

    1) I’ve passed out packets of microwave popcorn, which were very well-received, especially by tweens and teens.
    2) Also, party favors left over from my daughter’s October birthday party, which included markers (similar to the crayon idea).
    3) This year I was thinking of making origami fish and possibly inserting a penny or nickel in each.
    4) There are a few more specific ideas in this article:

    • Kara @Simple Kids

      Good list of idea, Julia! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      We’ve done the popcorn thing in years past and yes, it does seem to be a hit. I’m intrigued by the origami fish idea … cool!

      • Julia

        I finally got a post up showing the origami fish we’ve been making!

  9. Sally

    What marvelous ideas for reducing the amount of candy. Even though I am a grandma of two teens, I still love ideas for young kids. Bravo.

  10. Alicia

    We’ve done everything over the years with my kids. I have one who will save it literally for YEARS, one who’ll gorge herself and never learns moderation (and then has reactions to the dyes and artificial flavors for days), one who gives half of it away and then gets all upset AND has a peanut allergy, and one who’s only 3 and steals all his siblings stuff after he’s polished off his own. 🙂

    I am not a fan of junky candy for kids at Halloween, even as a “once a year treat,” because they simply get too much of it. Even going for just a few blocks, they end up with POUNDS of high fructose corn syrup, artifical flavors, chemicals and plain old crap. It’s bad for their bodies, their minds, their behavior and their teeth, and it sends a message that this crap is a “treat.” It’s not. It’s mostly cheap, overly sweetened, chemical-laden, non-food junk.

    Also keep in mind that a lot of cheap candy nowadays is made in China. Do we really want our kids eating that???

    I don’t have a simple answer. Over the years we’ve had parties instead, I’ve traded the junk for quality candy, we’ve done trick or treating over and over again at Grandma’s house with funny costumes on me and Grandma each time we answered the door (when my daughter was at her worst in terms of food reactions, this was a much better option than just dealing with days of crazy behavior)…

    I’m still working on what we’ll do this year. So far, we generally find ways to make it really fun even when it’s not traditional. I do plan on taking the kids trick or treating because they love that element, but after that… we’ll see how this year turns out.

  11. HereWeGoAJen

    I’m planning on eating all her candy myself, so that will solve that problem.

    I’ve been collecting small toys all year- kid’s meal toys, crayons from restaurants, little prizes, and we are handing those out for Halloween, plus some candy for the teenage trick or treaters. But the little kids always go for the different option.

  12. Christine

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Sugar Plum Fairy!!!! Brilliant!!! She will be coming to our house this year for sure. Thank you so much for this wonderful idea – I can’t believe I never heard of it before!! 🙂

  13. Emily from

    I love your idea about limiting the scope of the trick-or-treating. We live in the city where the distance between doors with candy can be a matter of feet. It is not like being in the burbs, where you walk up and down a driveway and there is a lot of space between each house. My son’s bag can fill up really quickly. One Halloween in recent memory, we walked the trick-or-treating route with friends and the adults were enjoying each other’s company so much that before we even realized it, the kids were strung-out, exhausted, and carrying pounds of candy.

    What works in our family in terms of doling out the loot is this… my son takes his candy bag into his room and hides it. This serves two purposes. It is out of my sight so that I am not eating it (this is the rationale I give him–to hide it from me so I won’t eat any) and it is out of his regular, daily sight so that he thinks of it less frequently. Our rule is that he can eat 2 pieces a day whenever he wants them. It puts the control in his hands, he is happy with the arrangement, and we avoid the constant begging/battling over each piece every day. Some days he remembers and eats two pieces. Some days he forgets. Since the candy is hidden, eventually more and more days go by without his eating any and eventually I take the bag out of his room, dump it out, and put the bad back in storage. I usually take the bag of extra candy to the youth leaders at our church who are happy to have some motivational treats for the teens. Only once has my son thought of his candy again… sometime in April he told me he couldn’t find his bag and I told him that I had given the candy away since he wasn’t eating it and it was old. I explained that we could still have treats, that maybe we would bake some cookies or go out for some ice cream and he was fine with that.

  14. Katie

    Thanks so much for all these great ideas, Kara! And lots of good suggestions in the comments, too. I am with Alicia – I certainly will let my daughter have some of the candy but there is no way I would let her have all of it because it is WAY TOO MUCH – even if it is just once a year, it is literally pounds of candy. I have known children who actually developed diabetes from a major binge like that. Any ideas for lessening the candy load are welcome by me! 🙂

  15. Fiery

    My Aunts house was always a favorite and she rarely would get candy. She’d always give out bags with small treats like pencils, erasers, silly pencil toppers and other things she could pick up on sale(though you could buy from Oriental Trading Co). She also use to buy the coupon sheets from McDonalds (10-12 coupons for $1) and pass out 1-3 of them. Parents really seemed to like the non-candy items and the McD’s coupons were great for a special treat down the road without having to shell out money. She also did packages of crackers and cookies mainly for the little kids.

    Now my other Aunt always gives out full size candy bars to trick or treaters. Halloween happens to be her Birthday so it’s her birthday gift to give out full size bars.

    The best way to avoid all the candy is skip going door to door. Pile the kids in the car and drive to friends and relatives houses for a visit. This makes for less time to go door to door. Also going early tends to result in less candy. Usually the later customers end up with multiple candies because people are looking to get rid of their extra.

  16. oh amanda {impress your kids}

    Great great ideas! Our dentist is doing a Candy Buy Back and for every pound of candy you bring them they give you $1. They donate the candy to…somewhere, I can’t remember…the troops, maybe? Anywhoo–I told my daughter about it and she’s ready to trade her candy for cash!

  17. priest's wife

    I encourage my kids to only eat their true favorites- this limits the candy consimption

  18. Christine

    I’m not opposed to a little candy gluttony on halloween. But that’s me. I love sweets and I’ve taught my 2 year old to sing along with the song, “I want candy” just for the holiday.

    A warning about those cool molded crayons- they’re neat, but make sure to tell kids they’re not candy! They sure look a little like candy and any three year old is going to try and eat them. Some with more or less success!

  19. Kathryn

    This year, we’re going to try something similar to your suggestion to elevate other traditions associated with Halloween (or just this time of year). Some of my best childhood memories are of my church’s annual Halloween/fall party. We had costumes, a cake walk, a pumpkin-carving contest, apple-bobbing, etc. The kids could walk around and get candy from the grown-ups, but we were usually so enthralled with all the entertainments that we didn’t bother. DH and I have conferred with our church small group, and we’re going to try something similar at our house. Hopefully, we can pull it off!
    Another, smaller trick we use: Like you, we let our daughter eat just a few pieces of her candy right away. Then we put the rest in a Tupperware at the back of the highest shelf in the pantry, where it’s not readily visible when the pantry is open. If she remembers the candy later and asks for it, we allow her to have the occasional piece for dessert after lunch or dinner. At the rate of just one or two pieces a week, each Halloween’s stash usually lasts us for the rest of the year, at which point we throw any remainders away.

  20. Elizabeth E.

    Love your blog, even though I don’t think I’ve commented before.

    I try really hard to walk the line between being a “sweets grinch” all year round and being indulgent. My compromise is that I make all baked goods, frozen treats, and sweets from scratch using only wholesome organic ingredients, whole grains, and unrefined sweeteners.

    However, Halloween is the one time of the year I let go and don’t worry about it. Everything in moderation including moderation. Once a year is not enough to be a problem and I don’t think I could sleep at night if I took away the candy on Halloween and gave my kids a toothbrush. I was as sugar nut as a kid and now my favorite thing to eat is salad. Their palates will change naturally as they grow-up just as mine did.

    On the day of Halloween my kids get to eat whatever they want. Then, the rest gets packed away and they get one piece a day for a week or two. Then I just tell them they’ve eaten it all and it’s all gone. I pack up the actual leftovers and leave that out for trick-or-treaters the following year. Gross? Sort of, but that’s the one good thing about store bought candy it has a shelf-life that will outlast the next ice age!

  21. Herbwifemama

    The best idea I ever heard of was glow sticks, or glow in the dark jewelry. Still cool, you’ll likely be the only one on your street doing it, it’s not candy, and it bumps up the safety factor of Halloween. You can get them cheap at Oriental Trading.

  22. Cari

    We’ve started a tradition in our house that has been a hit thus far. When my daughter collects her candy, she knows that most of it will be used to create a gingerbread house come Christmastime. This way, each treat still feels special and exciting – she just doesn’t happen to eat it all.

    • Tammy

      We do this too!

      As for after Halloween we let our kids eat as much of their candy on halloween night as they want, which surprisingly never actually ends up being very much. After that limit to one a day and eventually they forget and don’t ask anymore. I keep a small jar for special treats for every now and then and the rest either gets tossed or used for gingerbread houses. (or Dad gets to it..)

  23. Scarlet

    Great ideas! I love the crayons idea. I never thought of that one!

  24. Jill

    A group of 4-6 graders canvas the neighborhood the week before Halloween with flyers to promote their can food drive. On Halloween night, not only do the kids treats for themselves, they are helping their communtiy. It is a fun and rewarding evening.

  25. Karen

    My kids get to pick a couple candies to eat after trick or treating, and then for the next couple of weeks they can pick one piece to have for dessert. (They’re still little enough to share with Mommy and Daddy too!) We do the same thing at Easter with the baskets my mom sends.

    When limiting your kids candy intake after trick or treating please remember that someone spent money on those treats. If you know you aren’t going to let them eat it all, use one of the great ideas listed here, donate it, or just don’t collect it in the first place. I’ve heard of people who literally dump their kids’ candy in the garbage; what a waste of money (even if it’s not yours) and a poor lesson to teach our kids.

  26. Michelle

    We have a fun tradition our kids enjoy with any candy they receive from Pinata Birthday parties, Halloween, etc… We put a large vase on the table and if they can fill up the vase with candy to trash we exchange the candy for a $5 bill each, they can use on a new toy for themselves! It helps a ton with getting rid of candy and the kids feeling excited about a new toy, instead of mourning the loss of their candy. They always keep a few candies to enjoy as well.

  27. octavia

    we’ve moved a largely retirement community and those old ladies are laden with sugar whatever the time of year but now is even more tricky. i usually politely accept and then we put it into a bowl for later… later is sometimes out of sight out of mind. our tradition is the bake something and decorate it (packaging and baked goods) and then instead of doing the door to door at night we do it during the day bringing our treats to other families. mind you my kids haven’t figured out yet that there is another tradition to doing the door to door so i have that in my favor… we are new to a suburb type experience. but the fun is in the planning, the dressing up and the homemade yummies we make.

  28. Mab

    Their halloween candy turns into currency in which they can “buy” a toy from mom/dad. The candy is then donated- we do the dentist who buys it per pound and it is donated to troops and the money is donated to charity. So they are encouraged to get as much as they can which is a big part of the fun on Halloween.
    I am one of those houses that gives away hot chocolate/apple cider- parents and kids love us! I also find it inexpensive.

  29. Sheena

    I bought little bubble bottles (like for wedding receptions) instead of candy this year. It’s super-cheap and different. Even the teens have fun blowing bubbles at each other while the finish their trick or treating. 😀

  30. Nicole aka Gidget

    I love your idea of crayons and lollipops.
    I have a friend who also buys back the candy from her kids for nickels after trick-or-treating. Then she takes them to the dollar store to buy a toy! 🙂

  31. RitaMueller31

    I had a desire to make my own organization, however I did not earn enough of cash to do this. Thank heaven my dude suggested to use the personal loans. Thus I used the short term loan and made real my old dream.

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