The Halloween season is here and kids are bursting with delight. The thrill of a scary story, the spooky décor transforming our homes and neighborhoods into macabre fantasy lands, becoming anything you want with the aid of a simple costume, going door-to-door and filling your bucket with candies like a pirate fills a chest with treasure, and doing it all surrounded by friends and family…what’s not to love? There’s still that child in me that tries to discover that Halloween magic anew each year. Now that I’m an adult, however, there’s also a pragmatic dietitian in me and these two parts struggle to get along. The child in me says give the trick or treaters the full-size candy bar (because those were always my favorite houses) but the dietitian in me recognizes that most kids already get too much sugar (causing or increasing the risk of numerous health problems).
As the argument rages inside me, I remind myself that Halloween has redefined itself nearly every generation. When trick or treating first started in the 30’s, the most common treats were homemade confections, fruit, nuts, or toys. By the 50’s, candy manufacturers were beginning to capitalize on the holiday and Bazooka Bubble Gum, M&M’s, and Almond Joys found their way into children’s buckets. In the 70’s the homemade sweets that started the tradition were now labeled as taboo and individually wrapped candies were almost exclusively given to trick or treaters. Since then, the candy selection has changed, with new flavors and brands coming and going, but we’re long overdue for a significant shift. It’s my hope (and I think both the kid and dietitian in me agree) that better-for-you snacks can be that next shift – foods that are still treats for children (get those raisins and toothbrushes out of the lineup) but aren’t loaded with sugar like traditional candy.
As you incorporate better-for-you snacks (non-food items can work great too) remember that variety is key. There isn’t one universally appealing option (one of the reasons for variety packs even among candy). To help you find the perfect treats, we’ve compiled a list of less-sugary snacks and non-food items you can find at your local grocery store. While none are quite as affordable as a fun-sized candy bar, there are many options that won’t break the bank and you can have the satisfaction of knowing you’re contributing to the health of our children (while still pleasing them with a treat).
Treats for under $1
- Halloween Toys – the seasonal aisle has a wide range of Halloween toys for less than a dollar (selection varies by store, while supplies last).
- Blue Diamond 100 Calorie Packs – nothing but good, nutritious almonds here in a small convenient package.
- Kind Kids Granola Bars – roughly half the sugar of a fun-sized candy with whole grains and fun packaging, this is my pick for best bar.
- Kind Bar Minis – your favorite fruit and nut bars in a small (and affordable) package with a quarter the added sugar of a typical fun-sized candy.
- Z Bar Protein – not my first recommendation due to the higher sugar content (about the same as a fun-sized candy) but it is balanced with a fair amount of protein and fiber.
- Goldfish Crackers – 0 g sugar and a fair amount of protein, goldfish are a good option and available in single-serve bags.
- Clementines – more fun than raisins especially if you decorate them like pumpkins; while clementines might be viewed as a treat by some, be sure to offer other options.
- Treetop Applesauce Pouches – with no fruit juice concentrate added, these one of the healthiest fruit squeeze pouches.
Treats for under 50¢
- Halloween toys – while options are more limited in the sub 50¢ range, you will find a few items like spooky pens or vampire fangs (selection varies by store, while supplies last).
- Stickers – check out the greeting card aisle where you’ll find a variety of sticker packs that you can break into individual sheets to give away.
- Stretch Island Fruit Leather – boasting no added sugar and 100% real fruit ingredients, they also have a low price tag when you buy them in multipacks.
- Smartfood Popcorn –single-serve packs are available, providing a fair amount of fiber and protein with no added sugar and a reasonable amount of fat and sodium.
- Corn Nuts – another good whole-grain corn option with no added sugar and a reasonable amount of fat and sodium.