Choose Healthy Halloween Treats for Children this Halloween

It’s that time of year again for ghosts and goblins, princesses and fairies to go trick-or-treating. But this Halloween, before buying bags of candy for trick-or-treaters, think about buying non-edible or non-sweet treats such as toys.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children are eating from 21 to 23 teaspoons of added sugar per day – more sugar than ever before. Most of the sugar comes from carbonated sodas, sweetened fruit beverages, candy and sweet baked goods such as cakes and cookies.

"Increased sugar intake combined with little vigorous activity and hours spent in front of a computer monitor or television screen contribute to children’s increased risk of diseases associated with obesity," said Pat Kendall, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension food safety and human nutrition specialist. "Non-edible foods are a healthier alternative for children and will be just as well received."

In a recent study published in 2003 by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, seven households across five different towns in Connecticut offered 284 trick-or-treaters, ages 3 to 14, a choice between comparably sized toys and candies. Each toy and candy item cost between 5 and 10 cents.

The results of the study showed that the children were just as likely to choose a toy as a piece of candy. No differences were reported in the types of choices made by boys and girls.

This year, break the rules and hand out non-sweet treats to trick-or-treaters such as temporary tattoos, rubber worms and spiders, Halloween-theme magnets, glow-in-the-dark insects, bubbles, whistles, sugar-free gum, individual juice boxes, cereal bars, cheese sticks, individually packed packages of raisins, individually wrapped beef jerky sticks, packages of instant hot chocolate mix, individually wrapped cheese and cracker packages, crayons, magnets or stickers.