Suggestions for Treats That Aren’t So Sweet

Healthy Halloween

The sky is inky black. The only sources of light are the moon, the stars and the friendly porch lights dotting the neighborhood. Under the cover of darkness, tiny goblins and witches prowl; storybook characters and superheroes scurry from house to house. Their sacks of sweet treats grow heavier with each stop.

One princess, her sneakers visible beneath a gossamer gown, rings a doorbell. Her cry of “Trick or treat!” turns into a horrified gasp as she sees the treats in store at this house: a basket full of toothbrushes.

For a sweet-toothed child on Halloween, being health-conscious is hardly the top priority. For parents, keeping kids healthy and happy can be a struggle. How can you find the perfect balance?

The first step is to have a plan. Purchase candy just before Halloween — instead of weeks in advance — to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t disappear before the big day. Sit down to a healthy meal before trick-or-treating, so kids will be full and less inclined to overindulge later that evening.

The holiday can also be an opportunity to teach children about portion control. Grazing on sweets over the course of several hours is much worse for your teeth than enjoying it in one sitting. When eating lots of candy at once, acid builds up in the mouth but is eventually neutralized by saliva; with grazing, the acid exposure is constant and too great for saliva to neutralize. In other words, continuous consumption can lead to cavities. Decide how many Twix bars to eat now, and save the rest in the freezer — out of sight, out of mind.

When choosing your own treats to hand out, consider healthier options. While it may be tempting to create a wholesome homemade snack, parents will be wary of anything that’s not prepackaged and sealed. Instead, try single-serving packs of trail mix: The nuts provide protein and healthy fats. Mini-boxes of raisins are sweet without any added sugar.

“My backup this year was single-serve microwave popcorn bags,” said Chris Ginter, father of 15- and 11-year-olds.

Another option is to eliminate edibles entirely — there are plenty of non-food options more tempting than toothbrushes. Kids are sure to enjoy stickers, temporary tattoos, plastic spider rings, pencils, erasers, crayons and mini-tubs of Play-Doh.

Candy alternatives are a hit with local mom Tisha Keller’s family. “My kids fight over those,” she said. 

Florida State University graduate Rachel Tullius has fond memories of another inedible substitute: “There was one house that gave out real two dollar bills instead of candy. We were always thrilled.”

If you prefer more traditional treats, you might choose to avoid artificial colors and flavors, hydrogenated fats and other potentially harmful ingredients. A variety of better-for-you alternatives are available in snack-packs at stores such as Whole Foods. Surf Sweets gummies, for example, are made with organic fruit juice and are free of the 10 most common allergens. Annie’s Homegrown Halloween Bunny Grahams are made with whole grains. Endangered Species Chocolate Halloween Treats are ethically traded, organic and non-GMO. Snyder’s of Hanover Halloween Pretzel Snack Sacks are fat free and sugar free.

Of course, a healthy lifestyle does not necessitate depriving yourself of “bad” foods. Gretchen Sunderman says a typical meal for her 9-year-old son Cole consists of things like salmon, quinoa and Brussels sprouts. Having nutritious, organic meals year-round, she and her husband are “pretty laid back about Halloween.” They check through Cole’s collected candy to make sure it’s not “open or weird looking” and let him enjoy it over the next few days.

“Honestly, I usually hide it at some point and he forgets about it,” Sunderman said. “And Mom and Dad sort of pick at it Halloween night — we all have our favorites!”

Whether you choose more wholesome snacks, non-edible alternatives or the customary candy, don’t let nutritional concerns take the fun out of the holiday. The key to a healthier Halloween is balance and moderation — and having a good toothbrush doesn’t hurt either.

Categories: Nutrition