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Ann Ludlum

FCS Agent, Southwind District

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Healthier alternatives for Halloween trick-or-treaters

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween usually involves lots of candy and sugary treats -- more than children need. All the sweet treats can be especially hard for children who have food allergies or have food limitations because of a chronic health condition, such as diabetes.

But, there are many fun alternatives to candy -- things that promote health rather than encourage unhealthy choices. With a little planning, it's possible to choose Halloween treats which reinforce the idea that a treat doesn't have to be loaded with sugar, salt, and fat.

When looking for treats for party-goers or trick-or-treaters, think outside the box. Consider nutritious and tasty foods as well as non-food items.

Food treats:

* Individual packets of dried fruit, raisins, nuts, peanuts.

* Fresh fruit (often called nature's candy), fruit juice boxes

* Sugar-free gum or bubblegum

* Low-fat granola bars

* Snack size microwaveable popcorn

* Peanut-butter crackers, cheese crackers, pretzels

* Individual pudding packs

Treats do not have to be food. Research has found that children between the ages of 3 and 14, regardless of gender, were just as likely to choose toys or trinkets as candy. Here are some ideas:

* Stickers or temporary tattoos

* Gel pens, fun pencils, or pencil toppers

* Plastic rings, trinket jewelry, hair barrettes, ponytail holders

* Buttons, pins

* Nickels, dimes, and quarters

* Tiny plastic animals, figurines, finger puppets

* Whistles

* Coloring books, puzzles books, note pads

* Crayons, colored pencils, markers

* Trading cards

* Restaurant coupons

* Small bouncy balls, foam balls, balloons

* Sidewalk chalk, hacky sack bean bags

* Bottles of bubbles

For a homemade treat which children could help prepare and which will have everyone smiling, try making the following:

Apple Smiles

1 medium red apple, cored and cut into 16 slices (2 slices make a pair of lips)

3-4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter miniature marshmallows (for teeth)

Spread peanut butter on one side of each apple slice. Place 3 or 4 mini-marshmallows on top of peanut butter on half of the apple slices. Top with another apple slice and press together to make one "smile."

To prevent the apple slices from turning dark, let them soak in pineapple or lemon juice for a few minutes before assembling. For a Halloween treat, use colored marshmallows for the teeth or substitute candy corn to make fangs.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.