Nutrition Column – Offer Healthy Halloween Treats

Halloween brings out the kid in all of us. It’s fun to get dressed up in a strange costume and parade around the neighborhood or go to a special party. Treats are a part of that fun, but treats don’t have to mean sticky, gooey candy.

This year, when you buy treats to hand out to the little ghosts and goblins that knock on your door, think beyond the traditional candy bars, suckers and gum to the variety of non-sweet and non-edible treats now available. All sorts of miniature toys, stickers and non-food favors can be found amid the candy bars and suckers at the "Halloween treat" section of your local supermarket or department store.

Choose one of those alternatives or use them as a springboard to choose other possibilities throughout the store. Examples of non-food treats that are great for Halloween are balloons, crayons, pencils, stickers, colored chalk, erasers, whistles, miniature plastic animals, miniature cars, packages of baseball cards and rubber spiders or worms.

Offering non-food treats benefits not only the Halloween doorbell-ringer, but the person handing out the treats as well. Why? Because there is no leftover candy sitting around giving out "eat me" messages. Any non-food favors not given out can simply be boxed up and stored for next year’s trick-or-treaters.

If the idea of non-food treats doesn’t suit your fancy, consider offering a non-sweet alternative. Some examples include cheese and cracker packages, sugar-free gum, cheese sticks, individually wrapped sticks of beef jerky, juice box packages, small packages of nuts or raisins and coupons good at local fast food establishments. Or, on chilly Halloween nights, what would

be more welcome than a package of instant cocoa mix? Once home, it could be combined with hot water to help wash down other treats that were received.

Parties are another solution. Today, many parents hold Halloween parties for their children instead of sending them out trick-or-treating. Some nutritious treats to serve at these parties are plain or cheese-coated popcorn, not-too-sweet cookies, apples, grapes, bananas and other fresh fruit, unshelled peanuts and a "witch’s brew" made with orange juice, lemonade and apple cider.

For a more substantial snack that children can help prepare, consider "scary pizza faces." Let your party-goers create their own faces by arranging sliced olives, green peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni and other ingredients on English muffins that have been brushed with tomato sauce. Add a little grated cheese for "hair" and pop in the oven or microwave for a treat that’s as good to eat as it is fun to make.

Halloween does not have to be synonymous with candy. This year, why not break the "sweet-tooth witch" routine and fill your trick-or-treaters’ sacks with all sorts of non-sticky and non-food treats?