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Tricks children into becoming healthy treats for Halloween

Make your children gobble up treats that are good for them!

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD / LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic – Expert Column

Every year, at this time, when spooky advertisements abound and the aisles of grocery stores are full of individual sized candies, I reflect on my dilemma: Do I stock up on sugar– Carrying treats for neighborhood children or I put on my dietitian hat and look for healthier alternatives that do not cause a look of disgust towards children?

Indeed, every year my professional hat takes control and I walk the aisles of grocery stores, pharmacies and mega shopping clubs to get healthy food and fun non-food gadgets that will please lovers of the hottest sweets. My goal is to generate a little emotion on the part of the children for the healthy treats and place them in their Halloween buckets. After all, I want the children to know that there are goodies that are delicious, good for you and that do not start with "c" and end with "and".

From the pantry

Gone are the days when you could bake a batch of homemade oatmeal cookies or popcorn balls and pass them. Most parents hesitate to let their children enjoy anything that is not individually involved. So the sweets from my kitchen, wrapped decoratively in ghosts and goblins, ala Martha Stewart, are not an option. The good news is that there are a lot of prizes of individual servings to satisfy even the most demanding witches.

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The favorites in the pantry include:

Raisins Pretzels Juice boxes Mini water bottles (needed to help wash sweets while trick or treating) Simple cookies (Graham cookies, Teddy Grahams, vanilla wafers, etc.) Baked potato chips, baked tortilla chips Popcorn Low-fat granola or cereal bars Free gum sugar

Believe it or not, it is fun to discover some random items that are not sweet in the bag, both for mothers and children. Moms delight in finding nourishing snacks that they can borrow to put in Johnny's lunch box. Children like variety and often end up eating or drinking nutritious treats while trying to get a break from all the sweets.

Party store gifts

If you choose to generate a little more excitement from your neighborhood gang, try the many non-food items that children love. I must admit that these items generate smiles larger than some of my healthy treats. Watch for small, inexpensive devices and the things kids love to collect, such as:

Decorative pencils Small rubber balls Erasers Erasers of rubber, elves, witches Waxed lips Luminous sticks Stickers Keychains Marbles Tic-tac-toe or other small games Bubbles Chalk Coloring books Crayons

How bad is a candy cube?

Well, then he decides to wear his father's hat, fondly recalling the excitement of his own childhood when he came home after Halloween night and spilled all his goodies on the living room floor. Why would you want to deny the children this same memorable experience? Of course, there is nothing wrong with candy in small doses. The problem is that today more children are overweight or obese and it is a serious health problem. Is Halloween the time or place to correct this national problem? No, but it sure does not hurt to spread some non-sweet items to help reduce the temptation to get rid of sweets.

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If you must sweets, choose no-chocolate Types that contain fewer calories without caffeine-type stimulants. Hard candies, gelatin types, licorice are good examples of sweets without the extra fat calories of chocolate and without potential stimulants.

A dose of parental guidance

As a parent, it is best to establish a plan for how all these sweets will be consumed. Ideally, the distribution of the sweets will be the responsibility of the parents, otherwise, it is possible that the meals are omitted in preference to the sweet festivals. Distribute it in moderation. If you have a very active child who has a normal weight, you may be more generous, but not so much that it affects your appetite. Remember, children are growing and need many nutrients that are not found in sweets. The sweets should be considered a treat, to be consumed after meeting the needs of vitamins, minerals and nutrients of the body.

Originally published on October 24, 2003
Medically updated on October 14, 2005.

© 1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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