Nutritionists’ Tips for Healthier Halloween Treats
By JULIE UPTON
Nothing says Halloween like heaps of candy. In fact, Americans eat some 25 pounds of candy per person per year, with Halloween accounting for the bulk of the consumption. If this sounds scarier than ghosts and goblins, fear not: We've asked some of the nation's top nutritionists for their best tips to ensure a healthier Halloween.
[Read More: Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy]
"Look for fun, affordable fruit snacks like mini raisin packs," says Shauna Del Prete, RD, CDN. Raisins are a top smart pick. In fact, a University of Toronto study found kids reported feeling fuller and ate fewer calories at their next meal when they snacked on raisins compared with other popular snacks.
Pint-Size Packets of Jelly Beans
According to Katherine Brooking, M.S., RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health, jelly beans are a great option because they satisfy your sweet tooth without as many calories as chocolate. "I give out Jelly Belly Kids Mix beans because each mini packet has just 28 calories -- or about 11 percent of the calories in a full-size chocolate candy bar," she says.
Single-Serve Packs of Nuts
"Nuts are a great snack to keep tiny tummies satisfied with the fiber and protein they provide, plus kids have fun cracking them open," says registered dietitian Chris Cooper. Look for the single-serve packages like a mini-size (1 ounce) pack of Wonderful Pistachios, which has 80 calories, three grams of protein and two grams of fiber.
Registered dietitian Julie Chudak suggests a kid-friendly and mom-approved alternative to candy -- Pirate's Booty. "I love it because it has less fat and fewer calories than traditional Halloween candies. Plus, it's also gluten-, nut- and trans-fat-free."
"I mix fun toy tricks with the healthier treats and let kids take both an edible and non-edible choice or the option of two tricks for incentive. I've done this ever since a study from Yale University found that children are just as excited about getting a toy as they are candy," says Seattle-based registered dietitian Stephanie Magill. A few ideas:
* Halloween-themed pencils, pencil toppers, crayons or erasers
* Scary stickers
* Plastic rings and bracelets
* Temporary tattoos
* Glow sticks
* Bouncy balls
Chew and Change
"I look for value packs of gum and let each trick-or-treater pick a pack," adds Upton. "If I run low, I'll let them pick a few sticks. Plus, I have rolls of quarters, so each can have gum and a quarter."
Minis or Fun-Size Candies
A healthier Halloween doesn't have to mean no candy at all. Allowing for a few sweet treats teaches kids about balance and moderation. "I give out all the basics in small bite-size pieces," says Elisa Zied M.S., RD, and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips.
Lollipops and Hard Candies
"I especially like to give out hard candies and lollipops because they take longer to eat and can satisfy kids' cravings for something sweet and possibly help them consume fewer calories from their treat bag," adds Zied.
Readers -- What treats do you hand out on Halloween? Do you buy healthy treats, candies or a mix of both? Do you hand out non-food treats? What's your favorite Halloween candy? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Julie Upton, M.S., RD, CSSD, is a registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. She is co-founder of Appetite for Health, a website where she shares what's in her shopping cart, favorite recipes, favorite CrossFit WODs and how she gets back on track after slip-ups. Julie is a nationally recognized journalist whose articles have appeared in such magazines, major newspapers and e-media as Prevention, Shape, Health, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, USA Today, Men's Journal and the Huffington Post. She is a frequent guest on national and local television and radio stations. She has been interviewed on the NBC Today Show, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight.