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Treats: The trick is making healthier choices

October 27, 2012
By Sharon Bopp ( , The Marietta Times

It's that bewitching time again-time to fill household bowls to overflowing with goodies for visiting trick or treaters.

Carrying bags, buckets or pillow cases for holding the treats they'll snatch up, it's a good bet area children will return home with plenty of sweet Halloween loot.

An estimated 89 million households this Halloween will give out candy to 41 million potential trick or treaters, ages 5 to 14, according to statistics compiled by

Those who need more convincing that American children love their Halloween sweets-chocolate goodies in particular-need look no further than, which reported that sales of Halloween chocolate treats almost double those of non chocolate candy.

The dirty little "trick" with Halloween candy and chocolate treats is that eating them causes a desire for more and more, said Vickie Kelly, registered nurse at the Marietta City Health Department.

"One day in moderation is not going to be a problem, but then (children) tend to keep on eating until it's all gone," she said.

Fact Box

At a glance

To go the traditional candy route without all the fat and high calorie count, offer visiting tricksters these bite size treats:

3 Musketeers.

100 Grand Bar.


Milky Way.



York Peppermint Patties.


Dr. Julie Kennel, program director at Ohio State University's department of human nutrition, was in agreement.

"Halloween can be the start of the whole holiday season, in which there is a higher amount of junk foods and treats...continuing through Thanksgiving and the winter holiday," she said.

This year, some area experts and local parents are trying to shift the focus from candy and chocolate to healthier alternatives for Halloween giving.

"I think that for a couple of years now interest in offering healthy (Halloween treats) has been building," said Kennel.

"Childhood obesity is a public health concern," Kelly said. Plus, diagnoses of ADD and juvenile diabetes and lifestyles lacking in proper exercise are valid reasons for keeping the Halloween junk food to a minimum.

Pre-packaged goods with a focus on reduced fat and lower calories are the best bet, Kennel said.

"If you gave out a treat that wasn't packaged, a lot of people might err on the side of caution and throw it away," she added.

Pre-packaged alternatives include food items like pretzels, apple slices from Subway and McDonald's, granola bars, fruit snack packs, popcorn balls and single serve bags of low fat microwave popcorn.

Halloween is a good time to talk to children about moderation, said Kennel.

"Help them set limits, have them pick a few (sweet items) to eat right away," she added.

Wendy Myers, 42, of Marietta, and mother of three, agreed.

"It's about learning how to deal in moderation with foods that aren't best for us," she said. "If you withhold all soda or candy, ...they end up sneaking it or binging on it."

Wendy Akers, 23, of Marietta, said she thinks healthier Halloween treats "show kids that they can still get a treat without having a lot of sugar."

Remember that there's more to trick or treating than food, chocolate and candy, Kelly stressed.

"You could give glow in the dark sticks or mini flashlights that could be used right off," she said.

Other alternatives include pencils, plastic rings or necklaces, stickers, erasers, temporary tattoos and coupon packs from Wendy's or McDonald's.

Myers has tried other choices than Halloween candy and chocolate.

"Different years, I tried giving out tattoos and pretzels. My kids said 'No way!'" she reported.

With hundreds of trick or treaters coming to her doorstep, she now gives out fun size candy bars.

Natalie Huggins, 27, of Vienna tried to hand out apples one year.

"It did not do well," she laughingly remembered. "The kids handed them back and said 'You can keep it.'"

Huggins admitted she will probably give out candy for Halloween this year.

"I could see one year offering an apple or candy," she said. "But almost every kid will say 'candy' irregardless of whether or not it's good for them."

The idea of non-food items like stickers or temporary tattoos doesn't interest Huggins either.

"It's a tradition to hand out foodstuffs," she said.

Although Savannah Delozier, 22, of Parkersburg loved getting tootsie rolls for Halloween as a child, she said she'll give out something healthier this year like pretzels, crackers, granola bars or cheese crackers.

"They're really better for you compared to candy," she added.

Stickers or pretzels are likely to be Akers' Halloween handouts of choice.

"Even kids (my son, Connor's) age can have pretzels, and he loves things like stickers and miniature toys," she said.

Marietta's Family Tree Dental, will offer children and parents a way to dispose of leftover Halloween candy and chocolate-all for two good causes.

Children can bring their Halloween loot to Family Tree Dental, 319 Colegate Drive, Marietta from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 3. Candy must be unopened.

Children will receive $1 per pound for their candy, said Dr. Austin Rehl, one of four dentists at Family Tree Dental.

The business will donate the candy to Operation Gratitude. Each year, the organization sends 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and more to deployed U.S. service members, their children, veterans and others.

"My brother is a dentist. He just finished deployment to Afghanistan," said Rehl. "We thought this would be a nice way to help our troops by sharing with them as a taste of homecoming."

In addition, Family Tree Dental will donate $1 for every pound of candy collected to BrAva, a local nonprofit organization that aims to help local children battling cancer and raise awareness of childhood cancer.



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