Make Halloween Healthier

Posted: November 17, 2011

Halloween is an exciting holiday for children. The anticipation of dressing in costume and receiving sweet treats is a thrill for them. However, it can also be a challenge to parents who are concerned about their child’s consumption of Halloween goodies.

     To make Halloween a healthier holiday, consider giving healthy food treats. Some examples include:
     * cereal bars
     * snack packets of dried fruit, baked pretzels, nut and seeds (e.g. peanuts*, unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds)
     * packages of low-fat crackers with cheese or peanut* butter filling
    * individual packets of animal crackers, gold fish crackers or graham crackers
     * Cracker jacks
     * 100 calorie packs of various products
     * small boxes of raisins and chocolate covered raisins
     * gummy candies made with real juice
     * single-serve packets of low-fat microwave popcorn
     If you choose candy for treats, look for those that are lower in fat and sugar such as sugar-free gum or hard candy. Choose bite-size candy bars based on the least amount of fat and calories per serving. Better choices are: 3 Musketeers; 100 Grand Bar; Butterfinger; Milky Way; Raisinets; Starburst and York Peppermint Patties. In addition, consider healthier dark chocolate versions.
     Consider giving non-food treats. There are many options available that kids will enjoy such as:
     * small toys and pocket-sized games
     * glow sticks
     * tiny decks of cards
     * Halloween pencils and erasers
     * stickers, including reflective safety stickers
     * rub-on or stick-on temporary tattoos
     * crayons
     * bottles of bubbles
     * coins
     If your child comes home with lots of sweet treats in his bag, use the opportunity to teach him about eating in moderation. Inventory his candy and don’t allow him to eat too many treats at once. Most candy has a long shelf-life. Put the "treat stash" out of children's reach and limit them to eating about two pieces of candy a day.
     Halloween provides a teachable moment to help kids choose treats wisely and follow healthy eating habits. By teaching them the importance of making smart choices along with getting plenty of physical activity, they will be on the road to leading healthy lifestyles for life.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.