Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/19/2005 10:28:34 PM
For Halloween this year, think beyond the usual sweet treats. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames suggests handing out miniature toys, stickers and non-food favors available in the Halloween section at local stores.
Small, child-safe toys, stickers, whistles, pencils, plastic rings, coupons to food establishments or pennies and nickels are also welcome gifts, the nutritionist says.
"Offering non-food treats is a healthy practice for goblins and those providing the treats as well," Reames says, explaining, "Instead of having candy left over to tempt you, non-food treats can be stored for next Halloween."
Kids enjoy non-food treats for Halloween. Reames says a recent study shows that children between the ages of 3 and 14 were just as likely to choose toys as candy when given the opportunity to choose between Halloween treats of candy or toys. There were no gender differences.
Sweets are discretionary calories and are not essential for a healthy diet. The flavor and fun of Halloween candy and sweets can be enjoyed by trick-or-treaters in moderation as an addition to the daily meal plan.
For non-sweet treats the nutritionist suggests cheese and cracker packages, sugar-free gum, cheese sticks, individually wrapped sticks of beef jerky, juice box packages, small packages of nuts or raisins, packets of instant cocoa mix and coupons good at local food establishments.
Some foods such as nuts and seeds and round or hard candy are not appropriate for small children because they may cause choking.
Reames offers additional ideas to help celebrate Halloween safely and healthfully:
• Allow children to trick or treat in familiar areas and neighborhoods.
• Make sure children eat before going out. Cut bread in pumpkin shapes, add lean meat, chicken or turkey and serve with a glass of low-fat milk and sliced fresh fruit.
• Buy candy at the last minute to avoid tempting yourself and other family members. Buy less than you think you need.
• Take a long walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the decorations and the children’s costumes.
• After trick-or-treating, share your child’s excitement by letting him or her show you the bag of treats. Inspect all treats to make sure none have been opened or tampered with. To help other parents, label homemade goodies with name, address and phone number so they can be identified as safe.
• Allow some time for children to enjoy their treats after coming home. Offer a glass of skim or low-fat milk to go along with the treats.
• Encourage children to separate goodies into groups that are similar in ingredients or color of wrapper. Make a game of eating just one from each type of goodie, rather than the whole bag.
Halloween treat bags usually provide enough goodies for two to three weeks. Encourage kids to pick a favorite treat or two for each day of the coming week. Divide the remaining treats into one-week portions, place in bags and store for the next weeks. Suggest that he or she eat one or two pieces a day at snack time or with meals.
Help youngsters remember to brush their teeth or at least rinse the mouth thoroughly with water after eating sweets and other carbohydrate foods. This will help prevent tooth decay.
For a Halloween party serve nutritious treats such as plain or cheese-coated popcorn, not- too-sweet cookies, apples, grapes, bananas, other fresh fruit, unshelled peanuts and Halloween punch made with orange juice, lemonade and apple cider.
Let children help prepare snacks such as pizza faces. They can create their own faces by arranging sliced olives, green peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni and other ingredients on English muffins brushed with tomato sauce. They can add a little grated cheese for "hair" and heat in the oven or microwave.
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.