As a dentist or a parent concerned about oral health, Halloween can be a tricky time of year - no pun intended. This is because we want children to enjoy the spirit of the holiday, but the unhealthy candy that goes along with it is much less desirable. While a few pieces of candy here or there won’t offset an otherwise healthy dental routine, it’s wise to have some healthier alternatives ready for the season. So before you hit the store to grab a bag of surgery sweets, we recommend reading this list of healthy alternatives to Halloween candy.
There are really two different treats to plan for as you get into the Halloween spirit. First and arguably more important are the treats you and your family plan to eat. Yes in the past many families have simply eaten from the candy bowl near the door, but we’re trying to develop a healthier outlook on Halloween treats. So before you ready the candy bowl for the trick-or-treaters later this month, let’s concentrate on at home treats first.
HEALTH FOOD TREATS
Today your local health food store has plenty of treats designed to be free of sugar and artificial additives. You just need to know where to look. Stores devoted to vitamins and supplements can sometimes have health food like this stocked as well. Don’t feel like you have to settle just because you don’t see something you like at one store. Today there is an astonishing variety of healthy treats that can meet your need for sweets and Halloween candy. Some examples include reduced or sugar free candies, vegan cookies, low sugar tarts and so much more. As a bonus, health food stores are great places to find allergy-free items if your child has food allergies.
While yes it would be too expensive to give these treats out to every trick-or-treater that happens by your door, they are great options for both kids and parents at home.
Vegetables, and apples for that matter, always get placed in lists of healthy alternatives to Halloween candy. The reasons for this are simple. Vegetables and many fruits are nature’s true candies, and they’re much better for your teeth than a sugary treat. Better yet, many vegetables have been shown to clean your teeth as you eat them, which is a great secondary benefit for those attune to oral health. Crunchy, fibrous vegetables truly are a great snack, and when paired with healthy dips like hummus, they can make you forget all about the candy bowl.
Just a friendly reminder - caramel apples are not a healthy treat, even with the apple at the core! The caramel contains a lot of sugar that is bad for your teeth, and it’s very easy for it to get stuck between your teeth as you eat it. So steer clear of caramel apples this season.
NUTS / TRAIL MIX
Nuts and trail mix make great snacks for those looking to cut sugar out of the Halloween holiday. Many nuts are nutritious and provide a healthy source of energy as well. Make sure you choose trail mix without candies like M&Ms, and it’s best to steer clear of dried fruit like cranberries as they can stick to your teeth. In addition, it is wise to read the ingredients to make sure the trail mix isn’t coated with sugar. With so many varieties available, you will be able to find one to match your sugar-free outlook.
SUGAR FREE PUDDING AND YOGURT
A final option for at-home treats comes in sugar free varieties of pudding and yogurt. While you’ll need to read the ingredients to ensure you’ve selected a healthy variety, sugar free pudding and yogurt can be kept in the fridge for those sweet tooth cravings that are sure to come with Halloween. As a bonus, your teeth will benefit from the calcium in the dairy found in pudding and yogurt.
While at home treats are an important part of Halloween, many families also like to give away treats to any trick-or-treaters that show up at their door. While you could just buy cheap sugary candy for this purpose, it really does go against the spirit of trying to keep your family healthier this Halloween. After all, having a bowl of sugary candy near the door is quite the temptation. In addition, you’re not doing any of the neighborhood children a favor by handing out candy that is bad for their teeth. Let’s look at some good alternatives that you can still hand out for Halloween.
GLOW STICKS / LIGHT UP TOYS
Of course candy is a popular thing to stuff a trick or treat bag with, but you don’t always have to hand out edible treats to be a popular trick or treat stop. There isn’t a child out there who doesn’t like a glow stick or light up toy, and they can often be bought in bulk at a reasonable price. Better yet, handing out glow sticks has a secondary benefit - it makes the trick-or-treaters easier to see in the early evening hours when they’re out and about. If you still want to hand out edible treats, you can always mix and match glow sticks with other items as well.
While glow sticks are a popular choice, there are other toys you can hand out as well. A visit to any Halloween or big box store will feature some Halloween tinker toys that are great for the candy bowl. Another excellent choice for a trick or treat bag stuffer is plastic vampire teeth, which are always a hit. Some people like to hand out temporary tattoos, which is fine for many kids, but remember not all parents might be pleased with the chore of rubbing off a tattoo before school the next day!
Making a second appearance on the list is trail mix, this time for trick-or-treaters. You can find bite sized packs of trail mix in many stores, and they are a tasty alternative to sugary candy. As we mentioned above, it is best to read the ingredients and avoid trail mix with candy so you provide the healthiest option to trick-or-treaters.
While it’s common to indulge in a little candy or sweets around the Halloween season, planning ahead and encouraging moderation for everyone in your family will make for a better overall holiday. Remember if you do have that piece of candy, make sure you don’t over-indulge and rinse your mouth with water or milk when you can. This helps flush away the sugar and other food particles that stick to your teeth and encourage bacteria growth.
Halloween is also a reminder that you may be due for your next dental checkup. Don’t just avoid the sugar come Halloween, make sure your teeth are healthy for every season by scheduling an appointment with Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry!