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:
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:
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.
Our Extension Publication 3568, “Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go or at Home,” offers even more snack ideas and recipes.
Glow sticks or glow-in-the-dark toys
Crayons and coloring books (try intricate coloring pages or books for older children)
Stickers or stamps
Spider rings or vampire teeth
Slime, putty, or squishy toys
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.