Elizabeth S. Reames | 10/12/2005 2:28:28 AM
Trick-or-treaters these days enjoy non-food treats as well as candy for Halloween. So, this year, think beyond the usual sweets, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
In a recent study 284 kids between the ages of 3 and 14 were given the opportunity to choose Halloween treats of candy or toys. The researchers found that children were just as likely to choose toys as candy. There were no gender differences.
Reames says all sorts of miniature toys, stickers and non-food favors can be found 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.
"Offering non-food treats is a healthy practice for Halloween goblins and for those providing treats as well," the LSU AgCenter nutritionist remarks, adding, "Instead of having candy left over to tempt you, non-food treats can be stored for next Halloween."
Sweets sit at the top of the Food Guide Pyramid 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 Reames 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 in celebrating 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 what 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.
The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says to 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. She suggests making a game of sorting and eating the candy. Separate goodies into groups that are similar in ingredients or color of wrapper and eat just one from each type of goodie, rather than from the whole bag.
Halloween 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 weekly portions, place in bags and store for the next weeks. Suggest eating one or two pieces a day at snack time or with meals.
Remind children to brush their teeth or at least rinse her 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, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.