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Can Halloween Treats be Healthy?
As the end of October nears, bags and bags of candy will be leaving store shelves in anticipation of trick-or-treaters. Between trick-or-treating, trunk or treats and fall festivals, the amount of small packaged candy that will be distributed and consumed is enormous. With the rise in food allergies and behavioral issues tied to certain additives, it is increasingly important to consider treat options beyond the typical sugar-laden, heavily processed snack.
Is it possible to participate in these activities, AND provide safe, healthy treats that kids will like at the same time? YES!
Instilling good nutritional habits in our children, while still allowing the fun of these annual candy gathering festivities can happen with a little planning. By comparison shopping and a little thinking outside of the “plastic pumpkin”, you can find treats that kids will love without contributing to the excessive sugar that can overtake the season.
Here are some ideas for healthier and fun treats for the littles in your life:
- Clementine Oranges – easy to peel and eat, these are a hit with children! For some added fun, draw a face on the side.
- Mini Candy Bars and Low-Calorie Packs – If you want to share the traditional sweets, you can still do so with mini sized treats. From chocolate bars to cookies, you’ll find lots of snack size portion options this time of year. Use these with your children at home as an excellent way to teach portion control.
- Real Fruit and Vegetable Pouches, Leather Strips & Snacks, etc. – Check the label and be cautious as some are as sugar an preservative filled as traditional candy. However, the ingredients list can help you find those that are made from actual fruit/vegetables.
- Veggie Chips & Fruit Chips – In small bags like single serving potato chips, these are quick and easy to distribute. Some kids are even getting in on the kale and seaweed chips trend. They are typically lower in fat and sugar than their potato counterparts while maintaining the crunch that so many kids like. What sugar is in the fruit chips is often no more than what is naturally occurring, which is easier on the body than the processed added sugars in many treats.
- Popcorn, Pretzels & Other Salty Treat Alternatives – You can give out popcorn in multiple ways – ready to eat single serving bags (packaged like chips), snack sized microwave popcorn pre-wrapped bags. Popcorn is rarely an allergen and is typically lower in sugar and fat than most candy (assuming you don’t overload it with butter). For a change of pace, look at baked corn and rice puffs. These baked snacks are similar in nutritional value to popcorn, but provide a few more flavor options. Another salty option is pretzels. These can often be found in thematic shapes for holidays to add a little fun to the treat.
- Granola Bars – Often reserved for breakfast, there are a number of companies that make small, snack size bars using nuts, fruits and whole grains along with honey, chocolate or other sweeteners. These can be a great alternative to the traditional candy bar while still satisfying the sweet tooth. Again, check labels as there are some who use healthy looking images on packaging, but are just as sugar filled as candy.
- Honey Sticks – While still a sweet treat, there are many benefits of honey, making it a good alternative. Find a bee keeper in your area and shop local.
- Nuts, Seeds, Granola or Trail Mix – While not typically as sweet, many children enjoy the crunch of nuts. Small serving sizes (think 100 Calorie Packs) make this an easy on the go snack while providing many nutritional benefits.
- Juice/Apple Cider Pouches – Read the labels to ensure you are getting a fruit product rather than a fruit flavored Aside from that, this can be a good treat and is an excellent alternative to sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Organic Candy – If you want to stick with candy, look for options other than the traditional big company candy bars. There are many smaller companies that create sweet and tasty options made with more wholesome ingredients. You may still get a hefty sugar serving, but it could be accompanied by antioxidants, fiber and other benefits. Check your local natural food store or farmers market.
If you decide edible treats are just too scary, there are many non-food alternatives! Often you can purchase these in bulk through a party store or save time with an online supplier:
- Water Bottles – Depending on how many you expect to give out, this may be price prohibitive, but if you are looking at a small event, then this could work for you. For some added fun, get paint markers and personalize them!
- Stickers – There’s a reason these are given out at doctor’s offices and other businesses. There’s something about a sticker that kids LOVE.
- Bubbles & Sidewalk Chalk – Small bubbles wands and bottles can be obtained at party stores or even dollar stores. Not only do children find bubbles and sidewalk chalk to be lots of fun, but you are encouraging them to be active at the same time!
- Spider Rings, Fake Teeth, Fake Mustaches, etc. – True these tend to not last long, but for that short time span children have a blast with them.
- Mini-Flashlights – Flashlights are another classic choice for entertaining children and now with inexpensive keychain flashlights, it’s easier than ever. An added benefit is that it can make children playing outside easier to see.
- Lego People – You can now purchase individual characters or small sets of the popular building block toys (or a compatible version).
- Wikki Sticks – Made from yarn and natural wax, these are a mess free, reusable, way to encourage creativity. The sticks can be bent and twisted to form shapes and even letters.
- Mini Playdoh, Bouncy Balls, Punch Balloons, and Slap Bracelets –Timeless classics that continue to be favorites. You can even find seasonal designs such as pumpkins, eyeballs, ghosts to fit your occasion.
At the end of it all, if you find you still have too much candy in the house, share it with others! There are organizations that collect excess candy after Halloween and will ship it to deployed service members around the world or to veterans in VA Hospitals across the country for a sweet treat. Search online and contact them for information about a local drop-off site or address to send your candy.
With all of these options for healthy treats, it’s easy to avoid handing out those sugary, preservative-filled snacks to children who trick or treat in your neighborhood. They will taste great, keep them active and be good for them. Are these health options tricks or treats – you decide!