Halloween Candy Alternatives

halloween.jpgAs a foodie, eco-geek, and mom of a kid apparently prone to cavities, Halloween causes me some angst. I don’t want to deprive Laurel and the neighborhood kids of candy but I don't like buying the preservative laden junk; I want to purchase good stuff (e.g., organic, fair trade) and candy alternatives without breaking the bank and/or getting my house toilet papered. I queried folks on Facebook and Twitter yesterday and got some great feedback. Below are some ideas from the community on alternatives to offer instead of – or in addition to – traditional candy. See also handy back editorial including Michelle’s tips for greening your Halloween and Tracy’s tips for promoting an allergy friendly Halloween.

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Alternative Snacks:

  • @prillyp: “No one ever knocks, but I always have something in case. This year: Annie's Bunny Gummies because I'm OK eating them if no one comes.”

  • @dcrmom: “I'm doing a small bag of pretzels AND a small candy bar. So it's not ALL bad.”

  • @mamacooldog: “Pretzels...and candy. I don't want to be the house every kid hates.”

  • Susan from Boston: “We hand out UTZ Halloween pretzels packages. My son is allergic to nuts, dairy and eggs so I try to be the "allergy-friendly" house. We have also handed out small containers of play dough in the past.”

  • @thriftymommy: "My aunt used to teach and she had a box of new kids meal toys left from her prize box. I'm giving those out as a kid-approved alternative to candy. I also have some fun size bags of Oreos, Teddy Grahams, and pretzels."

  • @FairlyOddMother: "I think it would be hilarious to do jello shots for the adults. Or maybe Dixie cups of hot cocoa and Baileys. Other than that, candy! But, I've also done Halloween-size packs of microwavable popcorn and that was a hit, especially among the tweens. I got them in bulk at Costco the year we did it."

  • Sara from Ireland: "We're definitely doing candy - but all that gummi bear stuff because I hate it...I know I would have felt seriously cheated if I was given non-candy as a kid. We ration it out here so it lasts nearly until Christmas...I grew up near a Frito Lay factory and Halloween was the only time I ever got to eat little bags of Fritos. Mmm...Fritos (goes into greasy salty snack reverie...). Eating candy is one of childhood's great pleasures."

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    Crafts, Toys, & Trinkets:

  • Janelle from New Hampshire: “Both of my girls love crafts, so whenever we have a gathering, my gift bags are craft related... I've given necklace making kits, birdhouses to paint, puppets to make, etc. The kids love this idea as it's something different, and the mums love it because it's not candy, and not another plastic ring, yo-yo, etc., that ends up being immediately lost or tossed. While these ideas may sound extravagant, they really aren't. I am a huge AC Moore, Michael's, and Christmas Tree shopper...you can find all the ideas that I mentioned for under $1 a piece.”

  • @MoreThanMommy: “I thought about doing temporary tattoos, but we have too many older trick or treaters. Really they just want candy…[Also] I have given out glow necklaces in the past. Michael’s has 12 glow necklaces for a dollar."

  • @WhollyMothers: “Mini-playdoh is on sale at Target now.”

  • @the3Ts: “Halloween stickers for the young kids and sugar free gum for the older ones!”

  • @seaweedgirle: “Halloween-themed pencils, stickers, tattoos, and eraser puzzles.”

  • @beclarke: “We have a bowl of candy and a bowl of little toys (inexpensive goodie bag toys). Kids opt for the toys.”

  • Judi via Facebook fan page: “We hand out stickers, since we are gluten free (which, btw, pretzels are not). Oriental Trading all the way!”

  • Vanessa from Boston: “I'm doing plastic fangs.”

  • @rookiewhitney: "I bought non-candy stuff and my husband said ‘Don't hand that out.’ We live on a busy street and get very few trick or treaters, and will probably not be home for them anyway, so I will likely leave a bowl of the skull rings and plastic spiders I bought and not worry about it."

  • @rookieheather: "I bought candy but also pencils and superball-eyeballs. Rumor has it that sometimes kids pick the pencils. I will test that rumor."

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    Bonus Points For Encouraging Good Deeds & Habits:

  • Susan from Vermont: “Don't forget change for UNICEF! Folks can still get boxes at Hallmark stores.”

  • @LizPW: “All the kids hate me…seed packets. They want candy, I want them to grow veggies.”

  • @WellesleyDental: “We're handing out toothbrushes and also collecting unwanted candy for troops Nov. 2 - 13 at our office.”

  • @pumpkinpetunias: "Always stickers for the little ones; also have done Halloween-themed yo-yos, toothbrushes (my fave), and glow sticks along with candy."

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    Other advice:

  • Joan via Facebook fan page: “Have you heard of the Switch Witch? She's sort of like the tooth fairy. The idea is that a kid can leave all his/her candy on the doorstep when he/she goes to bed, and that night, the witch takes the candy and leaves a toy in its place. I'm thinking about trying that idea out on my kids.”

  • Kim from Boston: “Oh, if you're watching your girlish figure - do not buy any candy until the 31st AND buy the kind you do not like so you won't be tempted to indulge! So for me, I never buy chocolate - I buy Dots and Sweet Tarts that the kiddies like but I don't waste my time on!”

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    Thanks everyone for these great ideas! Since we'll be out trolling the neighborhood so Laurel can show off her spectacular mermaid costume (generously sewn by her aunt Stephanie), I'll probably leave out a basket with a mix of organic candy, candy alternatives (e.g., pretzels), and small toy/craft items (e.g., stickers) and see what takes. Ultimately I'll buy things that I'm OK having around the house afterwards (so, yes to crafty items and no to tchotchke). We also will keep to our 1-2 piece of candy per day rule + brushing immediately following (due to aforementioned cavity issues). We've found that the nuisance of brushing often curbs Laurel's desire for sweets.

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    Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net