Halloween is a fun-filled time of year for young and old alike. There is the fun of planning and preparing costumes, the fun of some scary activities, and the excitement of walking neighborhoods or going to events to collect sugary treats.
“Candy is not forbidden, and it is okay for children to be excited about the sweet tasting treats,” said Lindsey Stevenson, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist. “However, children do need to learn to use moderation when enjoying their stash of candy collected at this time of year.”
Easy does it
Stevenson says parents need to help children divide the candy out over a period of time rather than over indulging and eating it all in a couple of days.
“Children need to be taught that candy is a ‘sometimes’ food eaten only after they have had healthy nutritious foods,” said Stevenson.
It is important that children never eat any of the candy collected until an adult can examine each piece to ensure it is safe.
“To help prevent children from munching on Halloween night, give them a snack or light meal before they go. Don’t send them out on an empty stomach,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson says it is a good idea to only allow children to “trick or treat” at homes of people you know. Another option is to only go to scheduled events where there is a lot of supervision of games and treats for a safe environment for children.
Candy that appears to be tampered with — like an open package or the appearance of pinholes in wrappers, torn wrappers or scratch marks — should be discarded immediately.
“The ultimate way to ensure the safety and health of your children might be to host a Halloween party at your house,” said Stevenson. “This gives parents complete control over what kind of treats the children will collect for the tricks of the evening.”
Stevenson suggests serving a healthy Halloween dinner consisting of “spooky” named dishes. For example, spaghetti and marinara sauce could be called “worms and blood.”
Include apples with a peanut butter (make sure no one is allergic) dipping sauce by cutting the apples in wedges and peeling away most of the peel. Leave just enough on the tip of the wedge to make it look like a painted toe nail and place the apples squished down in the peanut butter to make it look like toes. Call it “toe jam fondue.”
Put some water in a plastic glove and freeze it. Place the “frozen hand” in some punch made with apple cider, nutrient-rich cranberry juice, and orange juice. Dessert could be frozen grapes for eye balls and pomegranates for blood-filled ticks.
“The kids will have lots of fun and not even realize they are eating a healthy meal,” said Stevenson.
Offer alternatives to candy include popcorn, granola bars, trail mix, raisins or pretzels. It is possible to hand out non-food items like pencils, rings, bracelets, stickers, crayons, plastic snakes and bouncy balls.
“Keep in mind age appropriate items to avoid choking,” said Stevenson. “These tricks of healthy treats will help ensure a safe and fun-filled Halloween.”
For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.