Halloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries after being enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition for over 6 months now and learning about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption. To put it bluntly, I’m having a real moral dilemma about handing out candy this Halloween!
Americans spent a whopping $2.3 billion on Halloween candy in 2011. So it is not surprising to learn that 1 in 3 children and adolescents are overweight or obese and that number is increasing at alarming rates. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems, sleep apnea, depression and a whole host of other diseases and health problems.
So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar (or worse, high fructose corn syrup) AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what’s a good alternative to avoid getting out house egged or TPed (you know the old toilet paper in the trees)?
To stop the sweets overload this Halloween, consider handing out healthy snacks and non-edible treats like miniature toys, and temporary tattoos — items you might find in a typical goody bag. Try these options to add fun and healthy twists to trick-or-treating.
As October nears, the Halloween section of your local super store (think Wal-Mart and Target) or craft store typically will be stocked with temporary tattoos, stickers, Kazoos or other small musical instruments, playdoh, multi-packs of puzzles, rubber spiders, whistles, yo-yos, silly disguise glasses, wax vampire teeth, Tiny decks of cards, bracelets, rings, “Slime”, paddle balls, finger puppets, Origami paper & instructions and bubbles. These are only a sampling of the simple cost-effective toys that can provide fun and whimsical alternatives to traditional treats and will entertain long after the Halloween candy is gone.
Cold Hard Cash
If you are like me, I have a jar sitting on my dresser full of coins. Why not give out those pennies, nickels, and dimes? Who doesn’t love getting money, especially a kid?
School supplies may sound boring, but many children will be delighted to find Halloween or fall-themed pens, pencils, pencil toppers, fancy erasers, crayons, rulers, small notepads, stencils or stickers in their treat bags. These items individually can cost pennies and typically no more than a quarter. They are usually sold as multiples in a single package. Placing a variety of these low-cost items in a clear baggie translates as a mini art kit.
Pre-packaged Fruits and Vegetables
Offering pre-packaged fruits and vegetables can be far from bland. Today, supermarkets offer fresh pre-washed carrots, apples and grapes in single portion pre-packaged sizes. For items with a longer shelf life, consider snack-size boxes of trail mix and dried fruit (again limit the dried fruit because it is loaded with more sugar that regular fruits).
Pre-packaged Nuts and Seeds
Look for individual packets of salt-free, sulfite-free and artificial flavor free varieties of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, cashews and walnuts.
What about candy?
If you feel passionately about giving out a more traditional treat, but want to keep it healthy, there are plenty of options. The goal with choosing candy is to think outside the conventional candy box, which means applying the same criteria for candy that you would for any food: look for organic, all-natural, dye-free ingredients that are ethically sourced and packaged with the Earth in mind (i.e. compostable packaging, sold in bulk, etc.).
Health-wise, a fantastic choice is pure, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is anti-oxidant-rich and when it is also Fair Trade you know the farmers who grew the cocoa were treated and compensated fairly. Many candy companies also give a percentage of their sales back to worthy causes.
Surf Sweets’ fun selection of sour worms, gummy bears, lollipops and more, all packaged perfectly for Halloween is also at the top of a healthier candy selection if you don’t want to give chocolate. Bonus: they’re gluten-free, too!
What will you pass out this year? Will your kids go trick-or-treating?