by Meg Donahue
So here’s the thing about changing the way you eat; it’s about way more than just food. If it were only food, it wouldn’t be so hard, right? Not even going into all the addictive qualities of processed foods, foods, particularly unhealthy ones, are often rooted in so many of our traditions, holidays, and family memories.
Which leads me to the upcoming holiday on everybody’s mind: Halloween – a day which can be tough for anyone new to whole food plant-based living. As your neighbors make candy apples and buy dozens of bite-sized chocolate bars, you may wonder: can I even enjoy Halloween anymore?
The short answer: yes! You definitely can have a great whole food plant-based Halloween. It just takes some adjusting and some planning. Here are three tips for staying sane and healthy as you embark on your first WFPB Halloween.
1. Get creative with your treats. (or just copy our suggestions…)
Now that you’ve committed to eating whole food plant-based, the idea of running out to the store to buy a bunch of processed junk food may not sound ideal. You could forgo the candy but still participate in trick-or-treating by giving out some fun toys instead. Think temporary tattoos, bouncy balls, slap bracelets, glow sticks, yo-yos, mini whoopie cushions (sorry parents!), foam growing insects, finger puppets.
If you still prefer to give out a sweet treat, keep in mind most parents won’t allow their kids to take homemade goodies so you’ll still need most likely be giving out something that’s somewhat processed. If you’re ok with it, go for the less processed choices. Healthier Halloween treats include granola, local maple sticks, natural fruit leather, raisins, and dark chocolate Sun Cups (dairy-free).
A third option: you can totally not participate at all. If it’s just too much for you to be around candy and trick-or-treating, turn your outside lights off and watch your favorite Halloween movie instead. Treat yourself to a lovely night.
2. Keep the kids happy, plan your treating!
If you have little ones, how to keep them happy and healthy is definitely top of mind. Again, you may not feel great about letting them indulge in an evening of sugar BUT maybe you’re also feeling guilty about potentially depriving them of a tradition you enjoyed as a child. One compromise between the two conflicting feelings: choose healthy whole food plant-based meals throughout the day, including a very filling dinner before you embark on your trick-or-treat adventure. Then at the end of the night, let your kids pick a few from their treats and bring the rest into your office or give them away. Also, have on hand healthy treats that they love- WFPB cobblers or pies go a long way to soothe a sweet tooth.
In the end, whatever you decide should be something you feel comfortable with AND please please don’t beat yourself up – and keep it light.
We recommend hanging out with friends and family for your first whole food plant-based Halloween. Building new traditions may be key in letting go of some of your old ones. There’s plenty of Halloween fun to be had in your whole food plant-based life. Dress up in costume, have people over for a scary movie marathon with popcorn (you can enjoy it “cheesy” and oil-free by air popping then sprinkling with dried parsley and nutritional yeast). Bob for apples or make some Halloween themed WFPB recipes, like frozen banana ghost pops or stuffed pepper Jack-o-Lanterns.
Bonus Tip: Cut yourself some slack.
While having fun on Halloween and eating loads of sugar aren’t mutually exclusive (I promise!), you may find yourself slipping back into old habits like rummaging through your kid’s candy stash at midnight. If this happens, take a deep breath and relax. You’re only human and one night of candy isn’t a reason to give up. Just get right back up on the WFPB horse and keep going. Tomorrow is another day. You’ve got this.
Meg Donahue is a nutritionist and co-founder of MamaSezz, a plant-based, gluten-free meal preparation and delivery service. She has Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Nutrition Studies Center at Cornell and a Masters in Technology Management from Marlboro Graduate School.