A Healthier Halloween… Candy might be traditional Halloween fare, but there are plenty of healthier alternatives to tempt trick-or-treaters when they come howling on October 31st. According to Action for Healthy Kids, a national non-profit organization working to improve children’s health, about half of kids will choose toys over sweets if given the choice.

“Studies have shown that children will grab non-food items such as pencils, stickers, baseball cards or other trinkets. However, for adults this is a shift from the Halloween of their childhood,” says Amy Moyer, RD, MPH, of Action for Healthy Kids.

When many of today’s parents and grandparents celebrated Halloween as children, the health climate was much different. A third of children and teens are now overweight or obese — three times more than in the 1980s.

Adults can help usher in a new era of healthier Halloween celebrating. For trick-or-treat fare, Moyer suggests scouting out discount and party supply stores and the seasonal aisle of supermarkets for inexpensive items that come in large quantities such as plastic spider rings, bracelets, barrettes, and small toys. Healthier food options include small packages of pretzels or crackers, boxes of raisins, mini cereal boxes, 100% fruit sticks, and nut-free trail mixes.

Smarter School Partying

Trick-or-treating isn’t the only time when candy is traditionally a mainstay; school parties also are often chock full of sugary treats.

“Classroom parties are a perfect opportunity for teachers and parents to make simpler changes that improve health,” says Moyer. “The key is to practice what you teach when it comes to eating healthy and being active. Healthier party foods and active party games teach children that having fun and being healthy go hand-in-hand.”

Using classroom parties to reinforce healthy habits can have a lasting impact on a child’s overall health. Moyer urges party-planners to think of ways to make parties active, such as incorporating a dance theme or providing extra recess. Classroom parties can offer fun but healthy foods such as no-butter popcorn, whole-grain crackers with cheese, or fruits or vegetables with dip.

Teachers and parents can get further healthy school party planning ideas on the Action for Healthy Kids website (www.actionforhealthykids.org).

About Action for Healthy Kids
Action for Healthy Kids® is the nation’s leading nonprofit and largest volunteer network fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment by helping schools become healthier places and our kids learn to eat right, be active every day and be ready to learn. A collaboration of more than 70 organizations, corporations and government agencies supports grassroots efforts by 20,000+ volunteers nationwide. In the 2009-10 school year, Action for Healthy Kids reached 4.5 million students in 9,200 schools. More information is available on Facebook and on Twitter. Visit online at www.actionforhealthykids.org