Food for Thought: Trick ghouls and goblins with healthy treats

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier Extension Agent

Food for ThoughtOctober is the month where things go bump in the dark!  Ghouls and goblins, witches and princesses, pirates and monsters are out and about.  Have you given a thought to what you will give those trick-or-treaters?  Why not choose something good for the kids this year?

Many health and nutrition professionals are concerned that our young children are becoming obese.  There is concern when a food holiday like Halloween comes along.  Who wouldn’t be concerned?  Halloween is the get-all-the-candy-you-can-get holiday for kids of all ages!

Critics say, “You’re taking the fun out of Halloween.”  But the facts are that many of our children today will have a shorter, not longer, life span than their parents.  It’s that serious unless behavior changes are made.  Today there are young grade school children with high blood pressure and heart disease; those are an old person’s disease.  We all want the best for our children; a lack of physical activity and overweight children is not the appropriate approach.

Halloween is not the only food holiday when overeating on non-nutritious food is encouraged – Easter candy, Christmas candy, Thanksgiving desserts with high sugar calories, etc.  Do your part as someone who likes neighborhood children and wants them to be healthy.  Plan your trick-or-treat goodies now.

5 tips to a healthier Halloween

  • Hand out healthier treats rather than just candy, such as granola bars, snack packs such as trail mix, raisins, crackers, or pretzels, 100 percent juice boxes, and non-candy Halloween treats such as stickers, bookmarks, tattoos, erasers, and pencils.
  • Eat a nutritious meal before going trick-or-treating, so children are not hungry and only want to eat candy for supper.
  • Limit the number of treats your child can have each day. Make sure to decide the appropriate number ahead of time and let children know the limits and why it is important to limit candy.
  • Keep candy out of reach to prevent continuous and mindless eating.
  • Eat a piece of candy with a glass of milk or apple slices to add some healthy nutrients.

Recipes and suggestions for a healthier Halloween are available from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension here: http://food.unl.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=93526ac7-5dcc-4535-98b3-949219851094&groupId=4089482&.pdf

Licorice warning

If you patiently wait for Halloween to satisfy your black licorice cravings, take care.  Too much black licorice can cause serious harm.  If you are over the age of 40 and consume multiple 2-ounce bags (40-50 grams) of black licorice a day for at least 2 weeks you could be at risk for heart arrhythmias.

Research by FDA has found that black licorice contains a naturally present ingredient, glycyrrhizin, which may cause kidneys to release potassium, an essential mineral for normal activity of the heart.  Consuming multiple 2-ounce bags of black licorice over an extended period of time, such as 14 days or longer, can result in dangerously low levels of potassium, and in some individuals this can produce abnormal heart rhythms, as well as hypertension, edema, lethargy, and congestive heart failure.

Usually potassium levels are restored with no permanent adverse health effects once consumption stops.  The FDA advises consumers, regardless of their age or health status, to avoid consuming large amounts of black licorice in concentrated time periods.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].


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