Select Halloween treats that don't deliver nutritional tricks

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2004

ATHENS, Ga. It's heeeere the costumes, the jack-o'-lanterns, the cool crisp weather and the candy oh, the pounds and pounds of sweet, delicious candy to be had this Halloween!

According to the National Confectioners Association, 93 percent of kids will go trick-or-treating for Halloween.

Along the way, they'll pick up delicious treats of chocolate and chewy caramel, lollipops and other sugary-sweet confections. With those treats, kids also will be picking up a lot of empty calories, saturated fats and excess sugars.

However, those concerned about the health of kids can help out, by choosing healthier treats to hand out and monitoring the amount of trick-or-treat candy their children eat.

Following are tips on nutritious, yet delicious treats, as well as techniques to keep kids happy and healthy amid the holiday candy rush.

Cooperative extension nutrition and health specialist Connie Crawley and area extension agent for food and nutrition education Judy Hibbs, both recommended the following tips for Halloween:

Give healthier treats.

When trick-or-treaters arrive, you don't always have to give sugar. These healthy snacks are great treats kids love (kids not actually polled on this): boxes of raisins, granola or cereal bars, bags of nuts, packs of cheese and crackers or pretzels, sugar-free gum, juice boxes (100 percent juice), string cheese packs, packs of cocoa mix.

Don't give food

One way to make sure trick-or-treaters aren't picking up a healthy dose of calories at least, not from your home is by giving nonfood items. These items make great, inexpensive treats for kids: stickers, balloons, pencils, colored chalk, rubber spiders or bugs. Be sure to give balloons and other small items only to kids of appropriate age. Some items can pose a choking hazard to small children.

Host a Halloween bash.

For parents concerned about their children's candy consumption or even the safety of some treats, Crawley and Hibbs suggest hosting a party instead of trick-or-treating. Parties with friends and relatives also are a place where healthy foods can be served.

These homemade treats are healthy, yet will still satisfy party guests of all ages: trail mix with nuts and cereals, cheese and crackers or vegetables, fruit, carrot or applesauce cupcakes, oatmeal cookies, "Witches Brain Vegetable Dip" (cottage cheese and dry soup mix, served with fresh veggies), "Witches Fingers" (crooked-cut, oven-fried chicken fingers), "Vampire Fingers" (roasted pumpkin seeds or almonds), "Witches Brew" (hot apple cider).

Make a (candy) trade.

If trick-or-treating is a must in your household, allow children to keep some of the candy they collect and then have them "trade in" the rest for another item, such as a small toy or fun activity (bowling or miniature golf).

And don't forget to throw out some candy or give it away so adults or teens don't dig in!

With two kids younger than 5, eating is a big deal in Tracy Adler's household. Last year, the Asheville, N.C., restaurateur developed a line of inexpensive bowls called Yum Yum Dishes holding just enough food for her small children.

Adler said the dishes provide a means of measuring treats like candy.

Feed kids before trick-or-treating.

Provide kids with a good meal before letting them hit the streets on Halloween. Because they're full, they likely will eat less candy later.

Shorten the treat route.

The less kids collect, the less they have to eat. A few houses should provide trick-or-treaters more than enough candy for any kid.

Play a game.

A blind Halloween taste test game can be fun for kids. Asking them what they taste in a few different pieces of candy. When the game's over, candy is put away.

Bring leftovers to work.

By bringing in candy to work, you'll be the office hero and reduce the temptation for candy in your household.

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