Every year about this time, when spooky ads abound and grocery aisles are fully stocked with individual sized candy, I ponder my dilemma: Do I stock up on the sugar-laden treats for the neighborhood kids or do I wear my dietitian hat and look for healthier alternatives that won't evoke a look of disgust from the children?
Sure enough, every year my professional hat takes over and I scour the aisles of grocery stores, drug stores and mega-buying clubs for healthy food treats and fun non-food gizmos that will please the most ardent candy-lover. My goal is to generate a little bit of excitement from the kids for the healthy treats I drop it into their Halloween buckets. After all, I want kids to know that there are treats that are delicious, good for you and don't start with 'c' and end in 'y'.
From the Pantry
Gone are the days when you could bake a batch of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies or popcorn balls and pass them out. Most parents are hesitant to let their kids enjoy anything that is not individually wrapped. So confections from my kitchen, wrapped up decoratively in ghost and goblins, ala Martha Stewart, are not an option. The good news is that there are plenty of individual portion treats to satisfy even the most discriminating witch.
Favorites from the pantry include:
- Juice boxes
- Mini water bottles (they need them to help wash down the candy while trick or treating)
- Plain cookies (graham crackers, Teddy Grahams, vanilla wafers, etc.)
- Baked chips, baked tortilla chips
- Lowfat granola or cereal bars
- Sugar-free gum
Believe it or not, a few random non-candy items in the sack are fun to discover for both moms and kids. Moms delight in finding nutritious nibbles that she can borrow to put in Johnny's lunchbox. The kids like the variety and often end up eating or drinking the nutritious treats while trick or treating for respite from all the candy.
Party Store Goodies
If you opt to generate a little more enthusiasm from your neighborhood gang, try the numerous non-food items that kids love. I must admit, these items generate bigger smiles than do some of my healthy treats. Keep your eye out for small inexpensive gadgets and things that kids love to collect such as:
- Decorative pencils
- Small rubber balls
- Rubber ghosts, goblins, witches
- Waxed lips
- Glow sticks
- Key chains
- Tic-tac-toe or other small games
- Coloring books
How Bad is a Bucket of Candy?
OK, so you decide to wear your parent hat, remembering fondly the thrill of your own childhood when you came home after Halloween night and spilled out all your goodies onto the living room floor. Why would you want to deny kids this same memorable experience? Granted, there is nothing wrong with candy in small doses. The problem is that more kids today are overweight or obese and it is a serious health problem. Is Halloween the time or place to correct this national problem? No, but it sure doesn't hurt to sprinkle a few non-candy items to help reduce the temptation to pig-out on candy.
If candy you must, choose non-chocolate types that contain fewer calories without caffeine-like stimulants. Hard candies, jelly types, licorice are good examples of candy without the extra fat calories of chocolate and sans potential stimulants.
A Dose of Parental Guidance
As a parent, it is best to establish a plan of how all this candy will be consumed. Ideally, the distribution of the candy will be the parent's responsibility, otherwise, you may find meals skipped in preference to candy fests. Dole it out in moderation. If you have a very active child who is of normal weight, you can be more generous but not so much that it affects their appetite. Remember, kids are growing and need lots of nutrients that are not found in candy. Candy needs to be considered a treat, to be consumed after satisfying the body's need for vitamins, minerals and nutrients.