Q: Chuck, Halloween is saturated with candy galore and other unhealthy treats. I'm part of a growing band of health-conscious neighbors in our residential area who are refusing to drop one more piece of candy in kids' bags on Halloween night. Any advice for how we can do that without having the kids walk away or look in disdain at healthy treats? — "Healthy on Halloween" in Harrisburg, Pa.
A: Gone are the days when you could drop a piece of fruit, a home-baked cookie or a popcorn ball in a child's Halloween bag.
And we all know that when kids pour out their bags at the end of Halloween night to look over their treasure chest of treats, items such as granola bars and even packaged oatmeal raisin cookies are likely to be dumped in the garbage faster than you can say "trick or treat."
If you're a regular reader of my "C-Force" health and fitness column, then you know I'm all about empowering kids to make the right healthy choices. However, when they're inundated by a sugar subterfuge on Halloween, it's time we ante up our covert strategies to fight the confection consumption war for our kids.
One way to do that — or, if you will, trick to doing that — is to make the treats look (more) appealing. The trick and treat: There's a nutritious tryst in every bite.
True, dry, unappealing nutritious alternatives can be garnished with sparkles, decorations or other bling for greater charm. Then again, here are some of my favorite recommendations among the excellent healthy alternatives highlighted by Erin Semple and Chandni Jhunjhunwala in Reader's Digest:
—Sugar-free gum. Get the type packaged in the brightest and most attractive wrapping.
—Prepackaged pretzels, popcorn, cheese and crackers, and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Most of these are still kid favorites and will rival even most candies (in the right munchies moment). Most also come now in slick Halloween packaging. Though certain nut allergies (e.g., peanut allergies) have to be watched out for, there are many nutritious options here, including trail mixes.
—Honey sesame crunch bites (wrapped, of course). Sesame seeds have long been known as a powerhouse seed rich in flavonoid and phenolic antioxidants, phytonutrients such as omega-6 fatty acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, vitamins, protein, and dietary fiber with potent anti-cancer compounds. When immersed in honey — another natural nutrient — and packaged in clear wrapping, they have an alluring quality to kids' eyes and their taste buds.
—Fruit mishmash, strips and squeezes. There are a host of these new packaged smushed fruit snacks, so you'll want to read ingredients labels carefully. An excellent option is from Stretch Island Fruit Co. (http://www.stretchislandfruit.com), which produces organic FruitaBu Smoooshed fruit flats, rolls and twirls. They have no added sugar or artificial additives and are made up of more than 90 percent certified-organic fruit (puree, not from concentrate or juices). They come in different flavors and are as appealing and delicious as any Fruit Roll-Up, and each one counts as a genuine single serving of fruit.
—Prepackaged dried fruits. Now, before you renege on this possibility because it doesn't measure up to Lay's potato chips, buy a package and try it out on your kids. Now marketed in fancy potato chip-sized bags, Crispy Green (http://www.crispygreen.com) offers crispy apples, pears, bananas, cantaloupes, tangerines, mangoes and pineapples — all with no additives, preservatives (including sulfides), fat, cholesterol, skin or cores and with only 40 calories per bag.
—Dark chocolate bites. If you're going to offer candy, at least bail on the milk chocolate and opt for antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, which is plentiful in flavonoids, known for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Certified-organic dark chocolate Bug Bites are by Endangered Species (http://www.chocolatebar.com) — which donates 10 percent of net profits to organizations that support species conservation, habitat preservation and humanitarian efforts — and are a great option. Their packaging is as appealing as any milk chocolate alternative, and part of your money goes to a good cause, too.
—Dark chocolate-dipped fig bars or bites. Don't worry; the term "fig" often is cloaked in small print, so kids easily miss it. They look like any other candy and taste like candy, too. Dried figs are better than other dried fruit because they are higher in fiber, potassium, calcium and iron. Figamajigs (http://www.figamajigs.com) are fat-free, low in sodium and gluten-free, and they contain almonds, raspberries and mint — all smothered in dark chocolate. They were named "healthiest candy" by Forbes in 2006 and given a Snack Award by Shape in 2007.
—Delights' individually wrapped brownie, coconut cream and dark chocolate mint treats. Created by KUR Superfoods (http://www.kurfood.com), a Danish company, Delights recently came to the U.S. and are certified-organic, gluten-free, non-genetically modified, kosher, vegan and raw. They contain absolutely no added sugar or syrups but are naturally sweet and have roughly only 65 calories apiece. Each one is made with no more than seven natural, organic ingredients. For example, the brownie is made of dates, cashew butter, cacao powder, almonds, cinnamon and essential oil of orange. The best part is they come wrapped in clear packaging and look like chocolate brownies someone just baked at home.
Lastly, here are some fun and inexpensive non-food Halloween gifts suggested by Kathleen M. Zelman at WebMD. These can generate even more smiles on kids than the healthy treats I mentioned above: decorative pencils, erasers, wax lips, glow sticks, stickers, key chains, tic-tac-toe or other small games, bubbles, chalk, coloring books and crayons.
One great place to get trinket toys and treats with an inspiring message for kids is http://www.CTAinc.com.
The bottom line is that when kids come knocking at your door this Halloween night shouting "trick or treat," offer them both — a trick in the treat and a treat in the trick!
They don't call it trick-or-treating for nothing!
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.