Halloween is always a time of year of much fun and anticipation. Ghost and ghouls, princes and princesses of all shapes and sizes will take to the streets in search of treats, and maybe even giving out a few tricks. That said, in these health conscious times how do we combat the onslaught of Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Mars Bars, Hershey’s Kisses, and other sugar-filled treats that usually fill the bags and baskets of our little kids? Here are a few alternatives:
1) Make individually wrapped homemade fruit cups
2) Whole Fruit
3) Bake sugarless cookies and wrap them individually
4) Granola Bars
5) Give out a low-sugar fruit juice drink
6) A puzzle or other small games
7) A small comic book
9) Small change
Make individually wrapped homemade fruit cups
This idea comes from my experience living in Japan where everything is individually wrapped for maximum convenience. This obviously creates lots of waste, but it also lends to times like Halloween. Go out and buy some fruit from the local farmers market, give the fruit a thorough rinsing if necessary, slice them up and make small fruit cups – bananas, apples, and strawberries should do. Buy small Halloween themed bags from the local dollar store and go crazy. You keep the excitement and buildup, and keep the treat healthy. Bananas, apples and strawberries won’t go bad in one night and the parents of the children can just put it in the fridge if they want.
The above example leads into this more simple one – whole fruit. Shine up those apples, bananas and strawberries place them in clean-individual bags and hand them out. Simple, easy and healthy. This was widely popular when I was kid.
I know that doesn’t sound tasty but you can use alternatives like pure honey, which is actually good for you (don’t use sugar-filled honey – read the label). Pick up any old cookie recipe and have at it (check out this site for low carb cookies – http://www.cookie-recipes.net/cookie-recipes-low-carb-cookies.htm). You can add walnuts or peanuts or something like that but make sure you label the cookies properly so parents can be aware; maybe a child has a nut allergy. If children show up with no parents make sure you have two batches, one plain and one with nuts. Give out the plain ones in that situation. If you don’t have time to make fresh cookies go to the organic foods store and buy organic cookies. It might be a little more expensive but the health benefits to the kids are worth it.
If cookies don’t shake your fancy and seem too taxing try a long time favorite from my days as a kid – Granola Bars. These days you can walk into any health foods store and find granola products ready for the eating. If they recommend these bars for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts I’m certain they will be good for active kiddies.
Low-sugar Fruit Drink
This might sound strange but it’s something I remember from my Halloween days. We got a lot of fruit drinks. When I was a kid trick or treating was a marathon event that required foresight, planning and stamina. We needed hydration on a constant basis. It was not all fun and games. One minute too early and the fruit drinks were not ready, one minute too late and they were all gone. You had to be ready. Well, I remember a house that handed out these delicious fruit drinks that fueled use for the rest of the night. Of course we broke the cardinal rule of never opening your goodies until your parents checked them, but since the house was the house of my best friend, I thought it was okay and no worries. Anyway, the fruit drinks were a hit, and they were healthy.
A puzzle or small game
If you want to steer clear of food and drink then give the kids something to challenge their minds. A small puzzle game that requires them to put it together can be a great alternative to food. Also the child will be able to use this game more than once. Food has a time limit. A small jigsaw puzzle can be used over and over again.
A small comic book
You can give the kids the gift of knowledge, but with a fun twist. Get them reading by giving them a small comic book. Hopefully the parents take the initiative and read the comic book with their kids. You can even buy a comic book that has no color so the kids can color-in the scenes themselves. This can be loads of fun for hours and hours, even days. The parents could like this gift more than the kids.
You can always rely on simple toys like Legos to keep a child’s imagination occupied. While I don’t overly support just any toy, the right toy can be a good thing. Legos are great because they are small but they give children the ability to create something bigger either by following a plan, or using their own imagination. Small stuffed animals or key chain ornaments don’t offer the same level mental engagement.
If you are really in a pickle you can go to the change purse and give out pennies, nickels and dimes (when I was kid one house gave out quarters and half dollars, but you had to be on time and be well behaved). This may seem like a cop-out but in the end it allows the kids and the parents of the kids to buy what they want taking the responsibility out of your hands. Also, it could teach the child how to save money because they will most likely need to save their pennies before they can actually use them.
Halloween is a great time of year, but something with all this gift giving, parents must be a part of the equation. When I was kid my parents thoroughly checked all my goodies, and even asked me questions like, “Which house did you get this from?” If I couldn’t answer they would take away the treat. I had to be on the ball the whole time. They did things like ration the candy so we wouldn’t eat it all the time. This was my household during Halloween. Parents need to check the baggies and pouches of their little princes and princesses, and ghouls and ghosts. If the kiddies bring home nice looking apples and oranges wrapped in small bags then the parents should unwrap them wash them if necessary and prepare them for the kids to eat. Ask that question, “Where did you get this?” If the kid want the treat they will remember. In the end, healthy treats are great, and there are many more alternatives to actual food, but parents are the best way to keep a child healthy and safe during Halloween.