Families & Health

Halloween Candy Alternatives

by WVU Extension Specialists Amy Gannon, MS, RD, LD,
and Brooke Baker, MS, RD, LD

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trick or treat Candy is to Halloween as watermelon is to summer. Or is it? With recent trends in childhood obesity and the increase in dental cavities, many parents are searching for alternatives to the traditional Halloween candy bag.

While a small amount of Halloween candy can be a fun treat, excess added sugars have been linked to several health issues. The consumption of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup rose by 277 percent in the three decades between the 1970s and 2000. During the same time period, obesity rates have increased sharply, too.

candy corn on black dish Even if packaging is small, calories, fat, and sugar can really add up. A treat bag, prepared as described below, provides your child with an entire day’s worth of saturated fat and more than a third of calories needed for one day (based on a moderately active eight year-old child):

Item/ Serving Size/ Calories/ Fat (g)/ Saturated Fat (g)/ Sugar (g)
Hershey’s KissesŪ/ 9 Kisses/ 230/ 13/ 8/ 21
Reese’s Peanut Butter CupsŪ/ 2 Cups (1 Package)/ 210/ 13/ 4.5/ 21
Kit Kat BarŪ/ 4 Wafers (1 Package)/ 210/ 11/ 7/ 21

Total: 650 calories/ 37 grams fat/ 19.5 grams saturated fat/ 63 grams sugar

Healthy Alternatives

To help promote healthier habits and combat childhood obesity, many parents choose to provide alternatives to the traditional Halloween candy. Here are a few examples:

  • Air popped popcorn
  • Dried fruit
  • Trail Mix
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Animal crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Sugar-free chewing gum
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Yo-yos
  • Spider rings
  • Age-appropriate activity books: word-search, cross words, coloring books, etc.
  • Crayons
  • Mini books
  • Bouncy balls
  • Bubbles
  • Kazoos

After trick-or-treat, parents can implement a “buy back” program for Halloween candy. To do this, children get to choose several pieces of candy to savor after the holiday. Parents then “buy” the rest of the candy from the child and replace it with an activity such as a movie, a sleep over with friends, or a new book. Children get to enjoy a little candy without over-indulging, and parents can dispose of the candy as they see fit.

This material was funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local DHHR office or call 1-800-642-8589. West Virginia University is an equal opportunity employer. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider.