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 amidst the candy bars and suckers in the Halloween treat section of your local supermarket or department store.
Choose one of these or use them as a springboard for other possibilities throughout the store. Examples of non-food treats that make great Halloween treats include balloons, crayons, Halloween-themed pencils or stickers, temporary tattoos, whistles, miniature plastic animals, miniature cars, packages of baseball cards and rubber spiders or worms. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, when given a choice, kids aged 3 to 14 are just as likely to choose a toy as a piece of candy.
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 favors not given out can simply be boxed up and stored for next year’s trick-or-treaters.
If you’re not interested in giving out non-food treats, at least 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, and small packages of nuts, raisins or pretzels. 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 received.
Parties are another solution. Today, many parents organize Halloween parties for the neighborhood 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 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.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension