Halloween Candy Alternatives

trick or treating



Halloween trick-or-treating has ancient roots but is a fairly recent phenomenon in America, only having been widely practiced since the 1930s. And while children in some other countries now do American-style trick-or-treating, others have similar traditions tied to other holidays. For instance,

In Sweden children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) while Danish children dress up in various attires and go trick-or-treating on Fastelavn (or the next day, Shrove Monday) and In Norway kids go trick-or-treating between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The Easter witch tradition is done on Palm Sunday in Finland. In parts of Flanders and some parts of the Netherlands and most areas of Germany and Austria, children go to houses with home made beet lanterns or with paper lanterns (which can hold a candle or electronic light), singing songs about St. Martin on St. Martin’s Day (the 11th of November), in return for treats.

The two constants, of course, are the costumes and the treats, which are most commonly sweets of some kind. Here in the US, 80% of households typically plan to give candy. It’s certainly the easiest thing to do – just grab a few bags from the massive Halloween displays that greet us upon entering a grocery, drug or discount store. And, of course, we make sure to get more than enough – because you don’t want to risk running out. And, of course, we make sure to get candy we, ourselves, like – you know, in case there are leftovers.

But candy isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for a person (especially a young, growing person), and we think it should be a once-in-a-while treat at best. But as we’ve noted, Halloween kicks off a months-long sweets season, lasting through Thanksgiving, into the winter holidays and on through New Year’s Day. So providing some alternatives to reducing the sugar glut can be very helpful and even welcome – especially considering the ongoing health problems we’re generating in this country through our passion for sugar.

What are some alternatives? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Wax teeth or lips
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Sugar-free candies or suckers
  • Low-sugar granola bars
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Trail mix
  • Cheese & crackers packs

Of course, we’re not restricted to giving out food items only. In fact, there are plenty of inexpensive non-food items we can give out – things like stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils or pencil toppers, bubbles and small novelty toys.

The Corporation for National and Community Service provides a really nice list of non-food Halloween treats. Many of the kinds of novelty items mentioned can be bought cheaply in bulk from businesses such as Oriental Trading.


What are some of your favorite ideas for healthy or non-food Halloween treats? What do you give the kids when they come to your door? Let us know in the comments.

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Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

31 replies on “Halloween Candy Alternatives”

  1. I love the idea of healthy Halloween treats. Not only does the sugar-fest continue through New Year’s but think of February and Valentine’s, March with St. Patrick and his pot of chocolate, culminating in the candy attack of the Easter bunny. North Americans love junk food. I’m one of them.

    My favorite Halloween treat to give are tiny pots of Playdough. You can find them at Costco. They spark the imagination in the young and are nostalgic for the old! Plus they taste terrible. πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m pretty sure kids would rebel!
    As nice as this sounds, our society has already programmed an expected Halloween treat to be super sugary and super delicious.

    I somehow don’t think that trail mix and granola bars will fly.

  3. Wax teeth and lips are a good idea. I remember when I would occasionally get an apple while trick or treating, haha. It was kind of weird. We would end up throwing them at each other… good times.

  4. I tried some Halloween candy recently, the usual kind–little Snickers, Butterfingers–and was really amazed at how awful it tasted. Guess I’ve gotten used to eating much better quality chocolate (when I do eat chocolate, which is not that often). So, I’m torn. On the one hand, none of us need more junk food (especially if it doesn’t even taste all that good!), but I’m also opposed to overcontrolling what kids eat and think that holidays should provide some respite from controlled eating.

    Guess the real problem is not indulging in candy a couple times of year on holidays, but all the other days of the week when we eat far too much sweet and salty stuff, no?

  5. We have always tried to give out body friendly treats at Halloween. One year we gave out mini-raisin boxes and also sunflower seed packs. The kids informed us we were the worst house on the block.

    The next year, eager to redeem our reputation, we gave out xylitol and sugar free gum and we got thumbs up from every child

    Thanks for the reminder to be kind to children’s growing bodies.

  6. The idea sounds good, but in reality I’m pretty sure kids are so used to getting candy that they would NOT appreciate getting anything different.

  7. Back in the day trick or treating meant a homemade popcorn ball wrapped in tinfoil or an apple, orange or pomegranates. Now days everyone is afraid of poison and razorblades.

    It kind of took the fun out of Halloween. Trick or Treating was better back when we didn’t have to purchase treats to give out.

  8. Let obesity in children END! Great idea but may be you should disguise the health food in snikers wrappers HEE HEE HEE!

  9. As a young teenager, my days of trick or treating are still a fairly recent memory in my mind and I have to say:

    Kids don’t like that list of “treats”

    Pretzels and granola maybe, but I’m fairly certain even the most diabetic of kids don’t actually like sugar-free anything.

    And, sugar free things that are alternatively filled with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are proven to be connected with all sorts of weird health concerns.

    So, I’m going to advocate for the kids: they want good old fashioned sugar for the one post halloween week of the year.

  10. I commend your idea. I know there are plenty of non-food trick or treat items available…including Halloween themed rings, tops, etc.

    My approach to the holiday with my son is, hey, you get to go nuts eating sugar once a year. There’s no regulation with the candy or when he may eat it so long as he eats his meals and brushes his teeth. It’s usually gone in less than a week and he’s back on his usual diet of healthy foods.

    Though, I would love to find the house giving away pomegranates. yum.

  11. sounds like too many people are willing to just take the path of least resistance and give the kids what they think they want, even if in the long run it isn’t good for the kiddies. good for you to everyone who is brave enough to try to buck the sugar-glut trend. i’m not sure about the typical sugar free stuff, though. these are growing kids, and aspartame and other artificial sweetners might do as much harm as sugar. and stevia has not become mainstream enough as a natural sweetner to provide an alternative. maple syrup, honey, or agave sweetened treats are expensive. nuts raise the issue of allergies. it is tough. personally, i would have loved to have gotten bubbles, fake tattoos, playdough, or stickers back when i trick-or-treated. the fun part should be dressing up, anyway.
    one last point: isn’t it a sad snapshot of our culture that the kids are given junk and the healthy (and yummy) food, the pumpkin, tends to be just thrown away? my family roasted the seeds and made pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread from our jack-o-lantern. a delicious, healthy, kid & environmentally friendly approach πŸ˜‰

  12. I thought my mom was a loser for giving out pencils and erasers or stickers. But kids were okay with it because everything was Halloween-themed.

    Ever since moving away from home…I have never given anything on Halloween. We live in a city where there aren’t many houses, mostly blocks of aprtments and kids are instructed to stay at street-level, they don’t go up stairs so it’s a great excuse.

    But one day, I will have a house and I will give candy, boxes of raisins and cranberries, and pencils, and erasers and stickers.


  13. I agree with the candy-givers. I don’t want to yank toilet paper out of the trees or eggs off the window.

    Kids are mean SOB’s when they get shitty candy. Just sayin.

  14. I have a different type of child. He doesn’t really like chocalate,potato chips or gummy things. And trust me he did not get this from me. I love all the above except gummy things. However he loves going to as many houses as possible. We hit about4 to 5 blocks w/ about 40 houses per block. He loves divvying the candy up. Crunch bars” yes” doritos” yes” and afew other things suckers but he loves loves when he gets tattoos or little halloween toys! He’s 6 and I would never stop him from doing a sweet tradition I did too. When I went TOTing,we never got homeade or healthy treats so I’m not trying to pacify my child! And the halloween goodies last till I throw them out or gone in April. By the way the best treats for me were always chocolate and then chips. Ooh almost forgot money always used to get pennies,and dimes. Which is what I give out when I run out candy.

  15. hmmm…. yes, i certainly believe that an actual treat is in order. i recall liking stickers, etc., but a granola bar? you won’t get far.

    rather than exclude treats altogether, why not just go for quality. sweet is not necessarily a bad thing, and the artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free candy is just plain nasty (not to mention, they have their own set of health effects).

    if you have the time, you can streamline a baking session and make a large quantity of cookies or other baked treat. apple sauce or overripe bananas are a great sugar substitute in baked goods (although i always add at least a little sugar).

    rather than white, refined sugar, use honey or turbinado (unrefined) sugar.

    instead of buying corn-syrup nastiness and supporting corporations that destroy our fine planet, try good quality fair-trade, what-have-you, chocolate. good quality chocolate is good for you!

    yes, i know that cost can be an issue, but as with all things in the U S A, we must concentrate on quality rather than quantity. instead of 9 pounds of crap candy, each child receiving three pieces, get three pounds of quality treats, and give one per child.

    hell-lo!! this is not rocket science, people.

  16. As a teenager i’d have to say, I honestly don’t think most kids mind not getting the typical candy on halloween. But, with that said you still have to give then something good enough- gum, small toys, pretzels, etc. Handing out nuts and seeds on halloween won’t make too many kids happy.

  17. I don’t mean to be that guy but…giving out most of this stuff is a good way to be that house no one visits. And that’s just assuming we’re not talking about those hellions that take it as a grievance.

  18. Hey, considering the trick risk and disappointment factor, we may not be able to control the candy quotient on Halloween night, but my big gripe is the Halloween parties at school. I have never seen so much super sugared up, artificially colored, grainy to the point of crunchy icing treats in my life. Cookies, cupcakes, “juice drinks,” candies–where’s the classroom policies on this stuff? Not at my school. C’mon teachers and parents–let’s get responsible!

  19. well, i think that kids would do nothing if you did not give them candies. lol! nothing supernatural would happen

  20. I buy candy and non-candy items–from the oriental trading company, as you said. I find that pencils and scented erasers are quite popular, along with the temporary tattoos. I’ve actually had kids who don’t like (crazy) or can’t have (poor things) chocolate or sugar. They are quick to take the small bags of pretzels or goldfish.

    Every year I swear I’m buying candy that I hate so that I won’t eat the leftovers, but I’m weak. I do freeze the chocolate after a day or two–figure I can use them in cookie recipes instead of chocolate chips.

    Thanks for giving everyone some non-candy options.

  21. I am going to have to run this one by my panel of experts (ages 8, 11 and 15) and get back to you. πŸ˜‰ I know my kids would hate getting raisins or nuts BUT I think the temporary tattoos might be a winner.

  22. A year ago I designed a Halloween themed papercraft which I sell at a local events. We had some left over and handed them out last Halloween, the little kiddies were so excited for something different, so I decided to start selling papercaft handouts for others who are looking to hand out something new.

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