Halloween is a festive day that kids enjoy, because they get dressed up and get treats.
Enjoy the holiday with your kids, but carefully plan what you will do at your house to assure that healthy eating habits are practiced. This can be challenging, since the goal of most children is to get as much Halloween candy as possible for their own private stash.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you are planning what treats you are sharing with children this Halloween.
You don't have to pass out high calorie candy to trick-or-treaters at your house this year. Give them a variety of fun, non-candy alternatives to promote health rather than encourage unhealthy choices.
Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, doubling over the past 30 years. Eating in moderation and becoming more physically active could reduce obesity rates in children.
When the ghouls and goblins ring your doorbell this year, what will you give them? Try nutritious, tasty foods and non-food options, including items that get children up and moving to use the extra calories they consume.
Make Halloween a healthier holiday for children and adolescents with diabetes and other health-related dietary restrictions by offering non-sugar treats. Think outside the box when choosing treats for trick-or-treaters or party-goers. The calories in all those bite-size Halloween treats add up quickly. Four "bite size" chocolate bars contain approximately 320 calories; 25 jelly beans have 140 calories; and 20 pieces of candy corn add up to 100 calories.
There are other treats that are lower in fat and sugar but may provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. The possibilities for healthy food treats are endless. Set a good example for your own children and the neighborhood kids by passing out healthy treats like these instead of giving them candy. Some good examples include cereal bars, snack packets of dried fruit, baked pretzels, and trail mix. Packages of snack crackers like animal crackers, gold fish, graham crackers, or crackers with cheese fillings are also great. If you want to pass out "protein" snacks, beef or turkey jerky and nuts - beware that there are people with nut allergies - are good ideas.
Fresh fruits (e.g. apples, bananas and oranges) are very nutritious treats, but they can be a little scary for parents due to the packaging.
If you choose candy for treats, look for those that are lower in fat and sugar. 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, Starburst, and York Peppermint Patties. In addition, consider healthier dark chocolate versions. You can also give sugar-free gum or hard candy or gummy candies made with real juice.
Encourage kids to be more physically active by giving small, inexpensive toys to get them up and moving. Pass out bouncy balls, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk for drawing hopscotch or foursquare games, beanbags for hacky sack, or plastic or foam Frisbees.
For more information, or to schedule a program locally about financial management, nutrition, health and wellness, parenting education, or Oklahoma Home and Community Education, contact the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County by phone at 918-456-6163.
Heather Winn is a family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.