Extension News

Healthy, Safe Treats for Tricksters

10/23/2006

AMES, Iowa—Celebrating Halloween safely and healthfully doesn’t mean giving up all the treats. The trick is to bring the treats into balance, especially since kids often have multiple celebrations: at school, at friends’ homes, at aftercare and in the community -- including trick-or-treating.

“Helping kids understand that there’s more to Halloween than candy is an on-going task,” says Ruth Litchfield, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension nutrition specialist.  “Choosing or creating a costume, having fun with friends, playing games and doing crafts are all part of the excitement. With so many celebrations throughout the year, it’s important for children to learn how to enjoy one without going overboard.”

Part of that enjoyment also means avoiding unsafe foods. Whether you are giving out treats or helping your young goblin collect them, ISU Extension food science specialist Sam Beattie suggests a few dos and don’ts.

 “As head goblins, parents share responsibility for the goodies that their goblins eat,” Beattie said. “Remind kids to politely decline homemade treats, or food items that are not commercially wrapped. Also remind them that you want to see all the treats they get so they shouldn’t eat any until they return home.”

At home, inspect all candy for torn or damaged packaging, pinholes, or any thing else that looks suspicious. And, if your child has a food allergy, pay particular attention to goodies that may contain allergens, such as peanuts, nuts, wheat or dairy products. 

“If you don’t find the information you need on the package, you may need to check the manufacturer’s Web site,” Beattie said. “Also remember that for the littlest goblins, caramel candies, peanuts and gum may pose a choking hazard.” 

If you are planning a party, Beattie also suggests serving pasteurized, rather than fresh pressed apple cider. Unpasteurized apple cider may cause serious illness in children and adults.

“Bobbing for apples is another possible concern,” Beattie said.  “Mucous and saliva, which will wind up in the bobbing bucket, are known sources of cold and flu viruses.”

The ISU Extension specialists suggest these Trick-or-Treating giveaways and party favors:

Temporary tattoos or stickers
Small plastic spiders or ghosts
Super bouncy balls
Colorful pencils, erasers, or pencil toppers
Bracelets or hair accessories
Lunch- or snack-size bags of pretzels or crackers
Individual packages of raisins
100 percent juice boxes
Low-fat microwave popcorn 
Sugar-free gum
Fat-free candy, such as fruit snacks/gummies, SweeTarts, Smarties,  Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, or Skittles
Lower-fat chocolate candies. such as York Peppermint Patties, 3Musketeers, or Junior Mints

“If you absolutely must give out candy, choose the smallest size of the candy,” Litchfield advises.

For more information about food safety issues, visit the Iowa Food Safety Task Force Web site at www.iowafoodsafety.org. For more information about healthy and fun Halloween celebrations visit http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/halloween.pdf .

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Contacts :
Sam Beattie, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515)-294-3357, beatties@iastate.edu
Ruth Litchfield, Nutrition Extension Specialist, (515)294-9484, litch@iastate.edu
Diane Nelson, Communications and Marketing, (515)-294-3178, dinelson@iastate.edu