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Trick, Treat, or Toy? 4 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

By Ms. Qula Madkin, MSU Extension Service

Whether you are having a Halloween party with friends, sending treats to school, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, with a little creativity, you can find ways to add some healthy options into the mix. In fact, some research shows that when children are offered options for a treat, they are more likely to choose toys instead of candy.

Here are a few tips for healthier Halloween celebrations:

Remember Balance

Keep in mind that it’s what kids eat every day that has the most impact on their nutrition and health. Holidays and parties are scattered throughout the year, so there’s no need to make candy and sweet treats completely off-limits. Try to serve guests healthy snacks first and bring out the sweet treats later.

Practice Portion Control

Provide small portions of those special sweet treats that you do allow, like fun size candies and miniature versions of cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and brownies. Give each child a serving rather than leaving sweet treats out on the table for children to serve themselves.

Make Your Own Healthier Treats

You have more control over the ingredients when you make your own treats. Look for ways to include fruits, vegetables, nuts, or whole grains. Try popcorn tossed with cinnamon and sugar or chocolate-covered fresh fruit as healthier alternatives to candy. Consider using 100% canned pumpkin puree in baked goods, like muffins or cupcakes, to add more fiber and nutrients. Try our Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin recipe in our Extension Publication 3568, “Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go or at Home.”

Offer Alternative Treats

Don’t forget about non-edible treats, like bouncy balls, stickers, and indoor or outdoor activities and games that will get the entire family up and moving.

Consider some of these suggestions for healthier, alternative treats:

Healthier Treats:

  • Clementines, blood oranges, or oranges decorated like Jack-O-Lanterns with non-toxic markers

  • 100% juice boxes or pouches

  • 100% real fruit snacks

  • No-added-sugar squeezable yogurt tubes or pouches

  • Single-serving containers of fruit

  • Snack-sized packages of pretzels, popcorn, nuts, graham crackers, trail mix, pumpkin seeds, or dried fruit or vegetables.

Non-edible Treats:

  • Glow sticks or glow-in-the-dark toys

  • Bouncy balls

  • Mini toys

  • Crayons and coloring books (try intricate coloring pages or books for older children)

  • Stickers or stamps

  • Temporary tattoos

  • Bubble makers

  • Spider rings or vampire teeth

  • Slime, putty, or squishy toys

  • Friendship bracelets

  • Holiday flashcards or books

Bottom line: What we eat every day has the most impact on nutrition, so one party or holiday won’t make or break our health. Make your party more about fun than food and get your family up and active by playing games. And don’t forget, when given a choice between toys and candy, most children choose toys.

For more nutrition information, tips, and recipes, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate websites.

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