When most people think trick-or-treating, they picture costumes, children, and candy – lots and lots of candy. If you’re a 6-year-old with a sweet tooth, it’s your favorite day of the year. If you’re a parent concerned with finding healthier alternatives for your child, you’re probably less thrilled. He wants it all, while all you see are tummy aches and cavities.
But don’t panic. There are relatively healthier candy options for your kid to enjoy this Halloween. Here are 9 to choose from.
Peanut Butter Cups
If you’re faced with pile of candy bars, pick out these treats first. Though they definitely have the sugar and calories, candies with peanut butter or nuts (think Baby Ruth or Pay Day, too) serve a dual purpose. The chocolate makes your little one happy. The protein-packed peanut butter – assuming your kid isn’t allergic – makes them feel full more quickly. The nuts also pack some protein and prevent a blood sugar crash later. That’s more than you can say for a plain chocolate bar.
Fun-Sized Candy Bars
Keep an eye out for words like “mini” or “fun-size.” They can be a parent’s best friend when it comes to sorting through candy bags. These bite-sized versions of the most popular candy bars are pre-portioned; tuck the whole bars into the bottom of the bag and hand these out instead.
Offer your trick-or-treater a handful of colorful gummy bears. They require a little extra work to chew, and they’re typically lower in calories than chocolate alternatives. Plus, many gummy bears, worms, and other edible creatures are fat free. If you’re considering handing gummies out to your Halloween visitors, look for brands made with real fruit juice.
Nothing says fall like caramel-dipped apples. They’re delicious, chewy, and not such a terrible idea in terms of nutrition—at least not when compared to a regular-size candy bar. True, a handful of caramel candies has a good helping of calories and sugar, but if that’s the only way to get your kid to eat an apple (which is high in fiber and vitamin C), then consider it a sweet deal.
Lollipops are made from four things: sugar, corn syrup, water, and flavoring. But that short ingredient list is not what makes them a better choice for Halloween. Rather it’s because they keep mouths busy—giving you time to distract and dump the candy you want your kids to forget. A healthier idea: look for lollipops and suckers made by natural candy companies. They use cane sugar and natural fruit flavors, and in many cases, their dyes come from fruits and vegetables, too.
Okay, Cracker Jacks aren’t technically candy. But they are a healthier option that comes with a prize! What’s sweeter than that? A yummy combination of popcorn and peanuts coated with sweet caramel, Cracker Jacks come in great snack-size bags, which is perfect for handing out or handing to your kids when they’re asking for something. Also good: Popcorn is a whole grain, and peanuts are a great source of protein– assuming your kid isn’t allergic. A half-cup of the popcorn mix has less sugar than some brands of yogurts marketed towards kids.
Sugar-Free Bubble Gum
The concept is simple: Kids love gum, and if you give them some, they’ll be so busy chomping and chewing (at least for a few minutes) that they won’t want to munch away on other candies. You can even keep them busy blowing bubbles.
Chocolate or yogurt-covered raisins offer the best of two worlds: sweetness mixed with a fruit. (Of course, if your child will eat raisins without the candy covering, that’s even better!) But chocolate usually helps.
Rich in the antioxidant flavonoids, dark chocolate is a healthier option than its milky counterpart. While research is inconclusive, studies suggest dark chocolate may improve your cardiovascular health. It also has less sugar and carbs, and according to a study out of the University of Copenhagen, it’s more filling than milk chocolate. So give your kids one bar, and they’ll be too full to reach into the cavity forming candy corn bucket.