When asked what Halloween means, kids usually put candy at the top of their list. But research shows that given a choice between treats and toys, kids will often prefer the toys, according to Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist.
She encourages people to choose miniature toys, stickers and nonfood favors as their treats to dispense to the costumed beggars who come to their doors on Halloween.
"Temporary tattoos, bracelets and rings, whistles, pencils, coupons to food establishments or pennies and nickels are also welcome gifts," Reames said.
Nonsweet food suggestions include peanut butter and cracker packages, sugar-free gum, cereal bars, individually wrapped sticks of beef jerky, juice box packages, small packages of dried fruit and packets of instant cocoa mix.
"Some foods such as nuts and seeds and round or hard candy are not appropriate for small children because they may cause choking," she said.
You can still have fun with Halloween treats without contributing to dental decay or obesity:
• Make sure children eat before going out. Cut bread in pumpkin shapes, add lean meat, chicken or turkey and serve with a glass of low-fat milk and sliced fresh fruit.
• Walk with children while trick-or-treating instead of driving in the car.
• After trick-or-treating, share your childís excitement by letting him or her show you the bag of treats. Inspect all treats to make sure none have been opened or tampered with.
• Encourage children to separate goodies into groups that are similar in ingredients or color of wrapper. Make a game of eating just one from each type of goodie, rather than the whole bag.
• Halloween treat bags usually provide enough goodies for two to three weeks. Divide the treats into one-week portions, place in bags and store for your child to enjoy one or two pieces for snacks or with meals for the next weeks.
• Help your child remember to brush his/her teeth or at least rinse his/her mouth thoroughly with water after eating sweets, especially sticky sweets, to help prevent tooth decay.
Ideas to help adults cope with Halloween candy include:
• Buy candy at the last minute to avoid tempting yourself and other family members.
• Buy less candy than you think you need and donít buy your favorite kind.
• Take leftover candy to work to share with co-workers.
• Work off the extra calories from holiday candy by taking a long walk around your neighborhood and enjoying the decorations and the childrenís costumes.
Here are some recipes for Halloween treats that keep yummy and healthy in balance:
Halloween Party Popcorn
Combine popcorn with your choice of the following ingredients:
Raisins and other dried fruit
Orange/black candies, such as jelly beans
By mixing Halloween candy with popcorn, you cut back on the total amount of candy offered.
Serve with a scoop from a large bowl. Or fill a self-closing sandwich bag with popcorn mixture for each child.
Popcorn is a good choice for healthy eating. A cup of popcorn (popped) contains only 31 calories when popped without added fat. Popcorn provides fiber, or roughage, that the body needs in the daily diet.
Halloween Cereal Balls
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 package (10 oz.) marshmallows
2 tablespoons orange-flavored gelatin
6 cups crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup candy corn
Combine margarine and marshmallows in 2-quart glass bowl. Microwave (high), uncovered, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or until marshmallows are puffed.
Add orange gelatin; mix until combined. Stir in cereal until well coated. Mix in candy corn. Cool enough to handle.
With buttered hands, form mixture into 24 balls. Place on waxed paper until cool. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap for storage.
Mixture can be pressed into greased 13x9-inch baking pan and cut into squares for serving.