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While Halloween might look a little different this year with COVID-19, there’s one thing about the holiday that’s definitely not changing: candy — and lots of it.

As of September, Halloween candy and chocolate sales were up by 13% when compared to sales in 2019. But what can you do if you want to avoid the nutritional pitfalls that this seasonal sugar rush brings?

Enter Judy Simon, RD, CD, who shares some sweet tips for creating a healthier Halloween this year, along with festive recipes to help you get in the spirit of the season.

Don’t deny yourself a treat

This isn’t a trick — we promise. Simons says it’s important to have your Halloween candy and enjoy it, too.

“If your family has regular healthy meals, allowing yourself and your children to enjoy some sweets such as cookies and candy won’t harm you,” she notes.

That’s because if you treat candy as you do any other food, you’re normalizing the sweet stuff and not giving it a status as something taboo. When candy isn’t restricted, you may find you actually crave it less or are less likely to overindulge.

“When you’re totally deprived of sweets, you often end up sneaking them or overeating when you have the opportunity,” Simon explains.

Set up a candy-eating strategy

Does removing the guilt from Halloween candy mean it’s a chocolate-coated free-for-all? Not exactly.

If you have kids, Simon suggests making the “candy plan” a family conversation.

“Talk about Halloween in advance and what your family’s expectations are,” she says. “For example, your kids can have a set number of candies on Halloween, and then a few for snacks the next few days.”

And if you’re the one who wants to plan out your candy consumption, set yourself up for success by focusing on serving sizes.

“I like the strategy of Halloween-size candy, like mini candy bars or little boxes of candies so you get small tastes rather than full-size bars.” Simon says.

Don’t make it all about the sweet stuff

While having a candy strategy can help, you may find it easier to simply redirect your Halloween celebration in other ways.

Instead of making it all about the candy haul, get your gourd on with pumpkin-themed eats that are healthy, too. Try adding a scoop of pumpkin puree to your pancake mix in the morning, or carve jack-o’-lantern faces into bell peppers and stuff them with chili.

“It can be fun to have a Halloween theme throughout the day so the attention is not just on the candy heist,” Simon explains.

Try a healthy Halloween-themed recipe

Looking for a few healthy dishes that taste frighteningly good? Simon shares a few of her favorites.

Chocolate chip pumpkin cookies
Halloween apple cider
Halloween hot cocoa
Pumpkin chia pudding
Pumpkin muffins
Savory pumpkin hummus