27 Nov 2021

Laurann O'Reilly: How to have a healthy Tipp Halloween...all you need to know!

Laurann's column in this week's Nationalist

Six top nutrition tips for boosting your immune health with Laurann O'Reilly

Laurann O'Reilly

With Halloween just around the corner, many kids are getting their costumes to the ready. Whether you’re having a party or going trick or treating, what many parents may not be prepared for is the sugar rush that comes along with it.

Rest assured there are some creative ways that we can lower the sugar load without reducing the fun.

Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition By Laurann, guides us through some key tricks without the sugary treats so you can have a healthy Halloween.

For Those Trick or Treating

- Get Moving: In preparation for what may be quite a lot of food, why not fit in some exercise such as a walk, swimming or a trip to the playground beforehand, to allow for the additional energy intake.
When going trick or treating, why not make a game of it and walk instead of driving the kids house to house (where safe to do so of course). Tip: Stay safe and be sure to bring a bottle of water, a torch and wear comfortable shoes for walking.

- Include Healthy Meal: As busy and exciting as the day may be, be sure to fit in a filling and nutritious meal before the action begins. This will prevent you and the kids from overindulging in sugary foods first and reduce their chance of being ill from too many sweets

- Reduce The Trick or Treat Basket/Bag: This will help to reduce the amount of sweets that enter your home and in turn helps control your environment for you and your children (think of the temptation). It may be helpful to encourage kids to only take one treat from each house as they’ll be able to visit more houses.

- Safety First: It’s very important to do a check of the treats and toys that your children come home with, to make sure that they’re safe. This could be from a choking perspective for younger children, but also to check that they’re not past expiration dates which could make them sick. Please also be aware of children with food allergies, if you’re minding other children be sure to check with their parents or guardian first.

- Agree In Advance: Of course, kids will want to hold on to their sweets for dear life so to avoid any tears, it may be helpful to plan in advance how many sweets they’ll be allowed to take at each house, keep, and eat. If they’re old enough, let them help decide what to do with any excess.

For the Party People

- Try Some Healthy Scary foods: Serve healthy dressed up in the Halloween theme. There are lots of creative ideas being shared online at this time of year, like banana ghosts, apple monster mouths, carrot witch fingers or homemade ice pops.

- Have Fun with food: You can also incorporate healthy foods into party activities, such as decorating, making orange lanterns and of course the classic bobbing for apples.

- Try Some Scary & Fun Games: Why not include some active games such as zombie dance party, three-legged monster race, spider crawl, zombie tag. Not alone will this help to counteract some of the energy from treats, but it helps to burn off some of that sugar too.

- Rethink The Drink: Whilst sweets and chocolate may be obvious sources of sugar it’s important to be conscious of sugar-sweetened beverages. Tip: Offer water, milk, or make a Halloween themed punch from water and a splash of reduced sugar squash

- Allocate The Treats: Rather than leaving the sweets in an accessible bowl for a never-ending sugar rush, it may be best to hand out treats instead of letting them decide how much to take. If you have more than one item, ask them to choose which they prefer. This can help you get control of your Halloween budget too!

- Fun Without The Food: Remember you don’t have to offer sweets. Perhaps you could start a new tradition and give out healthier treats or non-edible fun items. You can really get creative, fun and child friendly. Why not check out some of these ideas.

Healthier Treat Ideas
*Mandarin or blood oranges, or oranges decorated with non-toxic ink
*Snack-sized packages of pretzels, popcorn, graham crackers and dried fruit
*100% real fruit strips
*Squeezable yogurt tubes or pouches

Fun Without The Food Ideas
*Fancy dress props
*Glow sticks/bracelets
*Crayons and colouring books
*Make a scary (or not scary) mask
*Temporary tattoos
*Vampire teeth
*Slime, putty or squishy toys
*Friendship bracelets

Note: Be careful to avoid giving very small items that could be a choking hazard to small children

What to Do with Leftover Treats

So, Halloween is over, but you’re left with piles of sweets in your house, that would almost see you well into the new year. Here are some ideas for enjoying the evening’s haul and avoiding a never-ending sugar rush:

1. Let each child choose which pieces they would like to keep (again it may be helpful to agree this in advance). You can leave enough to have one or two pieces a day for one or two days. You can then save for another occasion, donate or re-purpose the rest as you wish
2. When your child asks for a piece of candy, pair it with a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit or a cracker
3. Why not offer to “buy back” sweets from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity such as a day at the zoo or a toy
4. Donate excess sweets to those in need, into a children’s hospital or care packages.

- Save The Pumpkin: Once you’ve carved your pumpkin be sure to keep the delicious and nutritious pumpkin flesh/meat. Did you know that it includes some amazing nutrients including 1) Beta carotene (this gives it it’s orange colour) and provides your body with vitamin A, which is important for your immune system and eye health, 2) anti-oxidants (which protect our cells against damage) and 3) Lutein and Zeaxanthin which help to protect eye health. Whilst the pumpkin seeds themselves are rich in magnesium, zinc as well as vitamins B and E.
Why not try this recipe (picture below):

Healthy Halloween Pumpkin Soup Recipe

1 Tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
4 Cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Onion, diced
1 kg Pumpkin meat
2 Cups Vegetable stock
1 Cup Full-fat coconut milk (around 250 ml)
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot
Add the garlic and onion and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown
Add the pumpkin and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally
Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.
Remove from the heat and blend using an immersion (stick blender)
Top with chopped fresh parsley, pumpkin seeds, ground black pepper and serve with wholegrain brown bread.
Tip: This can keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days

For further information contact Laurann at or see 
Laurann O’Reilly is a qualified and experienced nutritionist with a BSc Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin.

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