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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Trick About Treats

I don’t see any reason to pay a bloody Freddy Krueger to chase me through a haunted house. Racy costumes have never been my thing, either. But I’ve always been down with another Halloween essential: trick-or-treating.

Let’s be serious, when it comes to trick-or-treating, the person handing out lame candy is worse than the one handing out none at all. My dentist lived in my neighborhood as a kid, and he handed out sugar-free gum. While I can totally appreciate his motives now, it’s no surprise that his house was a well-known target of Mischief Night.

Obviously sugar-free gum is a bad idea, but equally terrible is handing out unnecessarily unhealthy, artificial and chemical-filled candy to your cute little neighbors. So before you stock up on treats, here is what to leave on the shelves and some good alternatives that won’t make your home a target for rotten eggs, shaving cream or toilet paper.

The Bad

Check out the nutrition label, but skip the calories and fat content and look at the ingredients. If you see these listed, leave it:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans-fat). The man-made trans- fats increase shelf life, and they also increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol.  Trans fats also increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Unfortunately, it’s in a lot of childhood faves like, like Milky Way, Snickers, Twix, and the real heart breaker… Reese’s.
  • Artificial Colors. Yes, they make many of the most popular candy including M&Ms, candy corn and  jelly beans and even my past-favorite, Sour Patch Kids, look pretty, but they may have some side effects. Certain children may have an intolerance to artificial food colors that lead to behavior changes such as irritability and fidgetiness. In case you need more convincing, consider that many are banned in countries outside of the U.S.
  • Preservatives with weird initials like BHA and BHT. They prevent fats from going rancid. Links to cancer have been studied but not proven.

The Good

The best options to hand out are generally the most simple. And do those neighbor-parents a favor, keep all sizes as mini as possible.

  • 1oz chocolate bars (ideally dark) and 100% fruit chews are great options.
  • Healthier versions of your favorite peanut butter cups, peppermint patties and chocolate covered pretzels do exist, but they may be a little pricier.
  • For a cheap alternative, make homemade goodies. Try something the little ones will really dig, like homemade “Twix” or decorate ghoulish cupcakes.
  • Kids will fight over non-candy hits like vampire teeth, spider rings and slap bracelets.

So now that you won’t be unknowingly poisoning the neighbor’s kids anymore, you can focus on more important and entertaining things…like scaring them half to death.

So, what is your favorite Halloween candy?  Anything new you’ll be including or leaving out of your trick-or-treat basket this year?

 

Posted by: Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at 2:31 pm

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