It’s that time of year again! Where I live, most of the leaves have turned and fallen from the trees; the crisp fall air is scented with the smell of bonfires; the late afternoon sun casts impossibly long shadows over fields of golden corn stalks; and there are mountains of toxic, empty-calorie junk foods in every home and workplace. Halloween is right around the corner, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas right behind it. While the holidays have long been times of festive celebration and fellowship with family and friends, in recent decades, they have begun to center more around food than love, laughs and conversation. Many Americans gain one to five pounds each year during the holidays, and few of them lose that extra weight over the coming months. In this post, I’ll focus on the first food-centric holiday of the season: Halloween.
Whatever your thoughts about the origins or current meaning of the holiday, no doubt your Halloween involves having a large bowl full of candy to pass out to costumed kids who come knocking on your door. It’s a tricky business guessing how much candy you’ll need to buy. You don’t want to run out and have to turn away a bunch of sad little goblins at 7 p.m., but you also don’t want to have a bunch of candy lying around the house for the next week. What usually happens, is people buy more than they think they’ll need and then bring the leftover candy into work the next day. So then, not only are you faced with a bowlful of your own candy, but several others from your coworkers as well.
You can stop being part of the problem this year, though, by choosing your Halloween treats more wisely. Here are five alternative ideas to passing out candy this year.
- Single-Serving Dried Fruit, Nuts or Trail Mix – Think lunchbox snacks, here. Tiny servings of boxed raisins, dried mango, dried apple – whatever. Choose nuts that kids prefer, like peanuts, cashews or almonds.
- Fresh Fruit – Buying tangerines, kiwi or clementines by the bag makes this an affordable option. It might also expose some kids to new fruits they haven’t tried before.
- Small Toys – While lots of kids these days have abandoned “real” toys in favor of electronica, small children may still delight in playing with the real thing. At the website Giggle Time Toys, you can choose from a wide variety of small toys that cost less than a buck apiece.
- Cold, Hard Cash – If you had been handing this out when I was a kid, I would have been sure to hit your house every year. This probably isn’t an option if you normally have 200 kids visit, or if you get a lot of tweens and teens, but if you get a handful of young children, you can give them an amount of money that is meaningful to them. Most “desirable” Halloween candy costs between 10 and 25 cents per piece, so if you routinely hand out two or three pieces, then dropping a quarter or two into each munchkin’s bag won’t break the bank.
- A Fun and Spooky Experience – You can give kids a treat without handing them anything by turning your garage into a haunted house, or your back yard into a spooky labyrinth. Admittedly, this takes a lot more time and planning than just buying a bag of candy, but instead of giving kids a sugar high followed by early-onset diabetes, you can create a fun memory and instantly become the coolest house on the block.
Start this holiday season off right by leaving the Halloween candy at the store and giving the kids in your neighborhood something better.