WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Ready for sugar overload? It's Halloween, after all, and ghouls and goblins everywhere are gearing up to claim their sweets.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, Wellness Dietitian for ACME Markets which has locations throughout Westchester, has "scared up" a few creative ways to keep little ones happy while offering healthier holiday treats.
- Look for party favors and other items you can hand out instead of candy. Magee suggests looking at the office supply aisle of ACME for pencils and erasers or other products that catch your eye. "I wouldn't hand out a toothbrush," she said, "Leave that to the dentists. But go for items that kids like -- and need -- and parents appreciate."
- Choose food products that do double-duty. Magee's a big fan of granola bars -- they're great for kid's lunch boxes -- or 100 percent juice boxes. Or think about buying individual bags of SunChips which are healthier than candy and again, make for great snacks or lunch box options. Something else to consider: packets of hot chocolate or packs of sugar free gum. For little ones who can't chew gum, other items like small containers of play dough work.
- Practice mindful eating over mindless eating. In other words, encourage school-age kids (and grown-ups!) to really savor those fun-sized Snickers and other chocolates. Instead of watching TV while you chew or popping a candy in your mouth as you run out the door, cut it into six small pieces, close your eyes for a minute -- if you shut off one sense the others perk up -- and really concentrate on the taste. "The taste doesn't register in your brain when you take big bites and swallow food quickly," explained Magee. "You really need to slow down the process and let your tastebuds engage."
- Stick leftover candy in the freezer. That way you're saving it for another day -- and keeping that Halloween magic from continuing way past Oct. 31. You're also, again, practicing mindful eating as it will take longer to melt in your mouth.
- Up the health benefits by pairing Halloween treats with milk. Encourage kids to drink a glass while enjoying their newfound chocolates.
- Make candy a planned snack or part of a meal as a way to keep balance -- and keep track -- of what your kids are eating. By making items forbidden only makes someone want them more, stressed Magee. So again, plan them -- so the candy input doesn't get out of control.
- Encourage kids give away some of their loot to those less fortunate. Many local organizations are more than willing to take the candy off your hands.
And if you never bought candy in the first place? More pencils for you!