Amy’s Halloween candy alternatives

jackolanternsHalloween is right around the corner, but in light of my recent discoveries about damaging effects of artificial colors and flavors (and petroleum and coal tar) in candy, I haven’t been feeling very excited about a holiday that promotes candy consumption.

Consider this:

Americans spend a whopping $950 million on Halloween candy every year. So it’s not surprising that a 2006 Mayo Clinic article estimates that 1 in 3 American children are now considered seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s a staggering 25 million children who are at high risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, exercise induced asthma, disturbed sleep patterns, premature maturity, liver/gallbladder disease and depression. — Go Green

So the idea of handing out “treats” that are laden with sugar AND chemicals was less than appealing to me. But what is a good alternative that won’t get my house egged the next day?

Using several different web sites, I’ve compiled a list of some alternative Halloween treats. (Please be aware that some of these may be choking hazards for small children.)

Non-food options:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Playdoh
  • Pencils
  • Small pads of paper
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Kazoos or other small musical instruments
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles

Healthier food options (buy organic if you can afford it):

  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Pretzels
  • Glee gum
  • Packets of instant hot chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leathers
  • Prepackaged trail mix
  • Prepackaged cookies

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid costume jewelry, especially glossy, fake painted pearls and toys from vending machines, both of which may contain lead
  • Avoid cheap plastic toys that are just going to end up in the trash and go off to the landfills

Now what about for your OWN kids?

What do you do if your kids go trick-or-treating and come home with a bag full of stuff you’d rather they not eat? While my kids are still too young (in my book) for door-to-door trick-or-treating, we are going to a Halloween parade tomorrow (the kids dress up and walk down Main street) and the local merchants pass out candy after the parade is done. This year I decided to buy some natural candies – suckers, cookies, fruit leathers, etc., to trade Ava for once she’s done trick-or-treating. I’ll likely still let her pick a few things from her collected loot, but then I’m hoping she’ll trade the rest in for the still tasty, but natural candy goodies I have for her. I am optimistic that it will go well! :)

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34 thoughts on “Amy’s Halloween candy alternatives

  1. We always end up with FAR too much candy, but what we’ve started doing is letting them pick one or two items, and then throwing the rest in the freezer.

    After thanksgiving, we tape some recycled cardboard together for a house shape, whip up some royal icing, and glue the graham crackers to the cardboard with the icing.

    Then out comes the candy, and the kids glue it onto the house with the icing. Lots of creativity, reuses items, and a great opportunity to enjoy the candy with our eyes instead of our poor tummies.

  2. wonderful ideas, we’re not going the candy route either. I have stickers, hallowe’en pens & skeleton straws to give out, unfortunately they’re plastic, but we’ll work on that next year! Littlepixie is too small to go around this year, so that’s ok, but when she’s older we’ll have the whole vegan candy issue to work through!

    I love the idea of sachets of hot chocolate, must find some to give out. Our clocks are going back this weekend so it’ll get dark at 18:00 on Hallowe’en night and it’s cold, hot choc would be lovely!

  3. I usually give out pretzels and goldfish type crackers because I don’t get very many trick or treater and so don’t want that junk around my house — and quite honestly, my kids don’t eat the candy. They eat the pretzels and crackers.

  4. Yeah I’m already dreading it, last year Cricket got a lot of candy but he was too young to realize it was HIS and he could actually EAT it. I plan to hide/swap out what I can while he’s sleeping. I don’t really know how this will go, I think he’ll be fine once it’s out of sight buthow to get it out of sight. I might have to try reasoning with him telling him it’s just fun to collect it, not to eat it. Ha, we’ll see how that goes!

  5. This is great!!!

    DH and I were just discussing this, since we have yet to decide on and buy whatever we are giving out. In previous years, we just gave whatever was on sale that he picked up on the way home. lol

    Since becoming parents, tho, we are increasingly aware of the fact that we dont want to contribute to “sugaring up” kids with junk. Not to mention the fact that ours isnt allowed any sugar, and hardly anybody thinks of the little ones. Last year, one neighbor did have something special just for her, a little plush purse, and it was the only thing she was able to enjoy from all her trick or treating efforts. So, I am trying to think more along those lines and have something healthy for the older ones, and something special for little ones that they can enjoy too!

    Thanks for all the great ideas, Amy! Now, I just have to get out to the store and actually *get* some stuff!!! LOL
    ~J

  6. I have looked high and low for the little boxes of raisins that I used to love getting. But apparently they are not to be found. So I bought little packages of sunflower seeds instead.

    Monkey isn’t big enough for trick-or-treating but I don’t know what I’ll do when is…

  7. i am so with you. this year i decided to put my money where my mouth is and i ordered halloween superballs from oriental trading — i forget exactly how much but let me tell you, they were pretty inexpensive. my kiddo really never eats the candy (i think i still have some left over from last halloween) but i have definitely convinced him that we are going to save only a few pieces and give the rest to sick kids at children’s hospital.

    great post!

    p.s. there was a great post here: http://www.apparenting.com/_and_on_halloween_the_candy_fairy_visited_our_house.html
    about the candy fairy which visits and spirits away all the candy in exchange for something non-edible….hmmm…

  8. One year I gave out strawberries since they are in season here. You could dip some fruit in toffee I guess.

    Halloween isn’t big here and I am happy for it to stay that way. Call me a party pooper but going round begging for candy from strangers isn’t my idea of a good thing.

  9. Costco sells packages of miniature tubs of Playdoh – they run about 10 bucks for a pack of 80. My husband thinks I am a mean, old, cranky woman for not handing out candy, but I discovered last year that kids preferred it. I had handed out a few things of Playdoh last year (leftover from my son’s Halloween party). Halfway through the evening, I started running out of Playdoh and the kids were begging for it instead of the candy when they realized not every kid would get the Playdoh.

  10. Great post, Amy. I know a lot of otherwise mainstream parents who have had it with all the Halloween sugar.

    As for what to do with the loot, in a lot of Waldorf households the Halloween Witch Fairy comes to thoughtful children who leave their candy out for her. She so loves candy that she swoops in in the dark of night and leaves a special toy or other surprise for children who are kind enough to think of her.

  11. Informative post with lots of alternative ideas. Thank you!

    Trader Joe’s has been having a hilarious tongue in cheek commercial on the radio over here about handing out tubs of hummus to trick or treaters and becoming the talk of the town. Maybe add hummus to your list? :)

  12. however much i admire your creative alternative ideas…halloween is halloween! it’s a once a year treat. childhood obesity is not being caused by one day of pigging out, it’s being caused by too much screen time, too much consistent consumption of sugar/corn syrup/microwave dinners, and too little creative play time.

    maybe i’ll change my tune when my daughter is old enough to discover that you can actually eat candy, but in meantime, i’m stocking up on kit kats.

  13. Great post and I heartily agree… however… when I look at the other options I have to remind myself that we have anywhere from 100-150 trick or treaters each year, all the options would be WAY to expensive. I laughed when I saw the fruit leathers… those are SO expensive, there’s no way I could hand them out to 150 kiddos. And all the optional “toys” would be way out of my price range too. Maybe I could find some small bags of pretzels but the other items just seem way out of my price range for so many kids. I really don’t want to go the candy route either… does anyone else have any ideas for alot of kids at a reasonable cost? Thanks! :)

    PS- I should have thought of Oriental Trading sooner… but I know it’s too late now.

  14. The candy fairy visits our house on several occassions of the year, but especially on Halloween. My 3 kids each get to pick a few special pieces of candy to keep, then they put everything else into a big bowl on the porch. The next morning, the candy is gone and the bowl is filled with a few choice books. The candy fairy needs candy to live so they are eager to give her everything they can to help her survive the other, lean months of the year.

    The children don’t know that the “candy fairy” then takes the candy to my husbands work or donates it to the local fire department who then hands it out at their special events.

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  17. I really appreciate your awesome simple ideas about everything from “going green” to Halloween candy. You make me feel like it is possible to make a difference without completely overhauling my life as well as you don’t make me feel guilty even though I know I could be doing more. Thank you for your even-handed and ever creative ideas. Keep up the good work!

  18. I love your list! I kinda get out of this because we attend a huge fair put on for the community by our Church. There are games, bouncy houses and the kids dress up. They get goodies at each game station, not all candy! I donate there so this list will help. The neighbors know we are gone and I welcome them to come with us if they would like. Fun for big kids too. Anyway, have a great week. And a joy filled Halloween/harvest day!

  19. We really limit what the girls eat and honestly they are really not that big of candy eaters but love to join in on trick or treating and I love it for them :) But I wanted to say this year… quite a few people at the church were giving away play dough and little note pads and pencils. My girls loved that more than anything :)

  20. I guess I’m in the minority who thinks Halloween is Halloween, and candy isn’t Satan? My kids ARE old enough to trick or treat and eat the candy they get… and they can, and do. I don’t dole it out or place any limits on what they can eat out of their bags, either. Why set up control issues around food? They know it’s a once a year thing, that most of the time, we have healthy choices in the house and they enjoy those, too. And for the record–you may get egged anyway, I hate to say. :x Kids really don’t like most of the stuff on your alternative list. Candy (and chocolate mostly of course!) is still the number one sought-after “treat” to get on Halloween. A little indulgence isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

  21. Great ideas. Just fair warning about the tattoos – my son just went to a party and in his bag was a temporary tattoo and whatever chemicals they used to make it -he broke out in hives – within 15 minutes. We have decided to band all tattoos here.

    Loved the list though – lots of great ideas

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