Haunted by Halloween's sugar overload?

Try these tricks to transform your treats

The days and weeks leading up to Halloween are bewitching, with aisles full of creepy costumes, devilish decorations, and bags of chocolates, caramels, gummy things, and that once-a-year treat that you either love to hate or hate to love: candy corn.

Don't want to be the rotten apple on your block but still don't like the idea of handing out candy? Try other treats that pack less sugar than candy, but more fun than an apple or a toothbrush. Boxes of raisins or mini-bags of 100-calorie treats, snack mixes, pretzels or trail mix can satisfy the desire for a treat without seeming like a trick (back to the toothbrush). Non-edible treats such as stickers, temporary tattoos, glow-in-the-dark necklaces or even mini-containers of Play-Doh may elicit a thrill from trick-or-treaters, as well.

If banishing candy altogether would make you feel like the neighborhood ghoul, try handing out candy that isn't so frighteningly bad for you. Chocolate-covered raisins have fiber, and chocolate-covered peppermint patties are lower in fat than some other choices. If you want sweet without the sugar, try sugarless gum, which comes in lots of fun flavors that are sure to appeal to little gum-snappers.

If chocolate is a non-negotiable part of your Halloween experience, get into the spirit of the night: go dark. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and has more cocoa content and less fillers than milk chocolate. A higher cocoa content – between 50 percent and 80 percent – ensures the most health benefits. But like other treats, don't overdo this one just because it's billed as better. The benefits have been documented mainly for adults, but it's never too early to start cultivating a sophisticated palate.

Tips for a healthier Halloween

  1. Make sure your children eat a healthy, well-balanced meal before they set out for trick-or-treating.
  2. When you get home, sort through your child's candy. What is your child willing to get rid of? Whittle it down by a third or even half, and you're in good shape. And that excess third or half? Cue the ominous music: get rid of it. Whether you toss the treats in the trash or the mail (see no. 3), you'll avoid temptation at home or at work, particularly if you planned to share your child's confections with your coworkers.
  3. Donate a portion of your child's candy to U.S. troops overseas (a Google search will net plenty of options). If moderation isn't in your vocabulary, this might be your family's solution.
  4. You don't hear much these days about candy tampering, but as a parent, it's still a good thing to go through your child's candy and toss anything you're just not sure about, such as an unwrapped item or a homemade treat that didn't come from your beloved neighbor's house.
  5. Store the candy where you can keep an eye on it, and away from where it might be more of a temptation for little hands to sneak a piece.
  6. If it agrees with your style, you can set a dollar amount to "buy back" your child's candy. Per piece or per portion, your child gets something of value in return that they can save, or spend on something other than candy.
  7. Make something other than candy the focal point. Share old family traditions, or create new ones, with your child. Work on planning or creating a costume together. Enjoy the experience and put less emphasis on the loot.