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Published October 24, 2012, 11:35 PM

Positively Beautiful: Consider alternatives to sweets

Concerned about the upcoming sugar rush on Wednesday? The giant sized bags of mini-Snickers may be even scarier than the costumes.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Concerned about the upcoming sugar rush on Wednesday? The giant sized bags of mini-Snickers may be even scarier than the costumes.

Candy and other treats used to be occasional indulgences, but in our society sugar is almost a food group of its own.

Sugar takes up prime real estate on the labels of many processed foods, so we eat more of it than we realize. Researchers are worried about our kids and our future if we don’t get a handle on our collective sweet tooth.

We have the best of intentions and want to give the costumed cuties a special treat, and we don’t want to be the boring house or recipient of flying eggs or errant toilet paper rolls.

Budget is an issue, especially if you live in a neighborhood where your doorbell doesn’t get a rest for several hours. But if you are brave and want to make a difference in the pile of candy that kids get, here are a few alternatives ideas:

Check out the dollar store, Target, Kmart or Wal-Mart for fun nonfood treats:

  • Halloween pencils and erasers

  • Spider and skeleton rings

  • Packs of stickers

  • Small soaps in fun shapes

  • Coloring books and crayons

  • Little containers of Play-Doh

  • Baseball cards

  • Whistles

  • Colorful notebooks

If you are good at planning ahead, you could order cool stuff online, like glow-in-the dark bracelets, vampire teeth and bouncy balls that look like eyeballs.

You could take all the money you would normally spend on Halloween candy and convert it into pennies, nickels, dimes and a few quarters. I would throw in the Chucky Cheese and Space Aliens coins that seem to make it back to our house. Put it in a big bowl and let each kid grab a handful.

If you do go with food items, read the labels to check to check for hydrogenated oils and sugar content.

  • Snack size bags of pretzels in Halloween shapes.

  • Mini-bags of unflavored popcorn

  • Juice boxes

  • Small bags of pistachios with Frankenweenie on the front (and sticker to boot)

  • Small packages of apple slices

  • Dried fruit

  • Fruit roll-ups

  • Certain granola bars

  • Squeeze style applesauce

  • Cheese and cracker packages

  • Sugar-free gum

  • Little boxes of raisins.

I read about a mom who blogs as SnackGirl who gave out individually wrapped SunSweet prunes last year, but maybe that’s taking it a little too far!

If you still want to give candy, there are some “healthier options.” Check out Unreal Candy, the dream come true of a 15-year-old boy whose parents were strict with candy. These treats have less sugar, more protein and fiber and are free of high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified foods, artificial flavors and synthetic colors.

Endangered Species Organic Chocolate, Panda licorice, Justin’s Nut Butters, Yummy Earth and Annie’s Organics make candy that will leave you with less of a guilt trip. There are even Snicker-like options in this bunch that are as tasty as the original.

On the big day, have a healthy dinner before trick-or-treating. If it’s not too cold, walk an extra block before the kids start ringing doorbells. And think about a strategy for candy-management once you are home.

It’s wise to check out everything they’ve received and toss what you don’t approve. Let them choose several favorites for that night. Have them eat a high-protein snack before the candy to help balance the sugar rush.

Ration out what’s left. I recommend one piece a day, two on weekends. And if it’s just too much, find a dentist who will buy it back, or donate candy for a mission trip.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.