I love Trick or Treating. Really, really love it. Like, I went scavenging for candy until second year university when the “Aren’t you a little bit too old for this?”-es became too frequent. I fondly remember the hours I would spend dividing my T-or-T loot into categories: Chocolate, Candy, Special (cans of pop, full-size chocolate bars), Trades-ies (my sister liked licorice and I liked those little caramel squares), Gross-But-I’ll-Save-It-Just-In-Case (hard taffies) and For-The-Parents (weird unsalted peanuts).

But, and I don’t mean to be a bummer, I’ve been thinking about how absolutely bizarre it is that we send kids out into the night to get super excited about hoarding large amounts of the types of snacks we traditionally tell them aren’t ‘good’ for you. Why we are thrilled to see them come home with bags full of the very treats that are adding to our growing rates of obesity and diabetes. Even the “sugar as a special treat” concession sets up processed, sugar-y foods as a delicious reward for good behaviour or hard work. We might say “everything in moderation” and try to limit intake, but our use of sugar as a symbol of celebration and success creates a conflicting binary. Today’s health and beauty standards don’t match up with the way we glorify sugar. It’s no wonder we have such complicated relationships to junk food: we are told through cultural traditions like Trick or Treating to love something that is terrible for us. And boy, do we love it. Not least because it’s probably addictive!

As much as it pains me to say it, our treat-centric tradition is a dangerous one… fortunately there are ways to redefine “treats” to include sugar-free options. If you haven’t already gone out and bought a huge box of fun-sized candies for your neighbourhood kids (and yourself, later, let’s be honest) consider some alternatives you can hand out this Halloween. It comes with the risk of being dubbed the “wacky” neighbour, but you know better than than to pass out peanuts, right?

Small Toys: whistles, bouncy ball, fake spiders or bats

Pocket games: yo-yos, spinning tops, cards

Activities: Playdough, beading kits, coupons for local events, bubbles, chalk

Costume accessories: eye patch, fake teeth, temporary tattoos, glow sticks, bracelets, mustaches

School supplies: stickers, pencil tops, erasers, crayons

‘Healthier’ treats: honey sticks (ages 2 and up), popcorn, fruit leathers, organic juice boxes, coconut water, granola bars, pumpkin seeds, pretzels

Healthy Halloween, everyone!

Ideas compiled from: Parents.com, GreenHalloween.com, and Clemson.edu