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Healthier Halloween Treats

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It's soon to be that time of year, where kids in droves (and costumes) ring doorbells soliciting "treats." Grocery stores have stocked up on "fun sized" candy, large bags of lollipops, and the ubiquitous candy corn. I have always looked forward to seeing the wee ones in their princess and pirate garb, trying to guess who was behind each mask. Nowadays, our town has several Halloween bashes, where children play games, enjoy cupcakes and trick-or-treat in an auditorium. Safer, they say. This means that in the last two years we have not gotten any trick-or-treaters. Very disappointing. Nonetheless I do stock up with a few treats, just in case.

Given the increase in childhood obesity, it's important to think about what to hand out that won't break the bank (yours), break teeth (theirs) and end up in the garbage can. Unwrapped candy and apples went by the wayside some time ago. Parents are also hesitant to allow their children to eat homemade treats, such as popcorn balls, candied apples, or Halloween-shaped suckers. Kids seem to hate practical things like toothbrushes. So what's a person to do? Healthy snacks may not be on the top of their list, but you can find the lesser evil when shopping for your handouts.

Here are a few suggestions: sweet, savory, and playful. All are under 150 calories, 15 grams of sugar, and 10% sodium. All are available at your local grocery store, but buying in bulk may be cheaper at a Big Box Store like Costco, Kmart or WalMart. You can also order online from Amazon, Oriental Trading Company, and other e-retailers. Just Google the item and you can comparison shop.

And while many of you have already purchased your preferred Halloween handout, keep these items in mind as snacks and treats for your own family.

SWEET

  • Kellogg's Rice Krispy Treats: Kellogg's recently debuted strawberry-flavored Rice Krispy Treats. Each bar is 90 calories, and only 8 grams of sugar. The original Rice Krispy Treats, packaged in blue, are also 90 calories, and only 7 grams of sugar. Big Box stores, like Costco, have 54-count club packs, which bring down the price considerably.
  • 100-calorie Pack Candy: These gems from Hersheys come in York Peppermint Wafer Bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Wafer Bars, Hershey's Pretzel Bars, Hershey's Crisp Wafer Bars, and my favorite, Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bars. Only 100 calories and 8-9 grams of sugar. (Whereas, regular-sized Hershey Bars run about 210 calories and 24 grams of sugar per serving.) Mars, Inc. makes 100-calorie packs in Twix (10 grams of sugar) and M&Ms (13 grams of sugar). Approximately $3.29 for 7-pack.
  • 100-calorie Pack Cookies: Nabisco offers quite a variety of their cookies in individual 100-calorie packs: Oreo Thin Crisp, Peanut Butter Cookie Crisp, Milk Chocolate Pretzel, Chips Ahoy and Teddy Grahams. A 6 pack is about $2.50 and sugar and sodium are under the 15 grams and 10% limit.
  • Sugar-Free Gum: This is a treat that lasts and isn't gobbled in one or two bites. Cost is about $3 for an 8-pack at the grocery store, but Costco has significantly cheaper prices for the bulk gum packs.
  • Fruit Snack Packs: Believe it or not, the first ingredient in the squishy little gems known as General Mills Betty Crocker Fruit Gushers is pears (from concentrate). One pack is 90 calories and 13 grams of sugar. Sunkist Mixed Fruit Snacks (with calcium) are 80 calories, with 13 grams of sugar, and also have fruit as its first ingredient. (Remember to read those labels, folks.)

SAVORY

  • Corn Nuts: Nuts, in general, are not a big hit with kids, but flavored corn nuts usually go over well.  Individual packs vary in calories (130-180) and have no sugar. The plain corn nuts are the healthiest option, but there are flavored packs (barbecue, nacho cheese, etc.), all of which have artificial flavoring.  12-pack is $2.50.
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish: These popular baked snack crackers now come in 100-calorie individual pouches in cheddar and pretzel, with no sugar. A bit pricey at 9 for $4.99.
  • David Sunflower Seeds: The .9 ounce packages have just 80 calories and 3% sodium (no sugar). While they tend to be a bit messy, they will last awhile. Cost is around 20 to 30 cents per pack in a multipack of 9.
  • Ritz Bitz: The munch packs of Ritz Bits run about 140 calories, with 3 grams of sugar and 10% sodium. Cost is $4.99 for 12.

PLAYFUL

  • Squirt Guns: I bought a large quantity of squirt guns this summer for a birthday party and thought they would make a great alternative to candy. Party stores sell them in packs of 12 and 24, and they are also available online at Oriental Trading Company. They run about 30 to 40 cents apiece.
  • Play-Doh Fun Packs: Individual-sized Play-Doh come packed in a 20-can bags. For ages 2 and up, they were $3.50 at my local Rite Aid.
  • Goodie Bag Items: Local toy and party stores carry multi-packs of goodie bag items, such as yo-yos, mini-bottles of bubbles, toy cars, creepy crawlies, and more. Prices vary from 10 cents per item and up.

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