Opinion: It’s time to start giving children real food for Halloween

Halloween candy
Halloween candy. Photo: Jeff Turner; CC BY 2.0

Halloween candy. The joy in every child’s life and the bane of every parent’s existence. It requires adults to stock up on calorie-dense, nutritionally deficient junk food, inevitably leaving them with leftovers they feel guilty about eating. It turns normal children into children with ADHD, and children with ADHD into eco-friendly sources of alternative energy.

Stores usually offer deals on huge boxes with hundreds of chocolate bars inside. To take advantage, though, you have to brave the onslaught of people stocking up on chocolates, pumpkins, costumes, and various pieces of injection-moulded toxic plastic to glue to the outside of their house. And every year, those little treats seem to get smaller and smaller, forcing kids to work harder and harder to get their fix.

“I had to walk for three hours in the rain last night,” said Amelia, an eleven year old trick-or-treater who visited my house. “The chocolate bars are so small. I got a packet of M&Ms, and there were only three inside, and they were all brown. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.”

In addition to the candy size crisis, parents are growing increasingly concerned about their children’s sugar intake. Excessive sugar can lead to hyperactivity, obesity, and diabetes. It can also cause tooth decay, and many dentists are now offering candy buy-back programs to stop children from eating their hard-earned confections. I know, I know; it’s historic and traditional, and you loved trick-or-treating when you were a kid. But times change, and the evidence is clear that candy is on its way out.

With that said, there are plenty of even better treats that will put a smile on the faces of your young, energetic visitors. For the sake of discussion, we’re going to lay out some parameters. It should be food, as the whole point is to get little treats, not objects that may or may not be useful to them. It must be relatively healthy; something that won’t cause them to bounce off the walls and cause their keepers grief. It should also be affordable, as many people are visited by more than 100 children and can’t afford to spend several dollars on each one.

Let’s go through some possibilities.

A trick

For the love of God, no. The ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat’ is a mere formality, much like Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s head of state. The only trick you’re performing is drawing children up to your doorstep just for them to leave empty-handed, with their heart broken and their dreams shattered. It’s also a great way to have your pumpkins smashed and your house egged after you go to sleep for the night. Please don’t ask me how I know this.

The only time a trick is acceptable is if you’re a famous magician, like David Copperfield or Penn and/or Teller. But if that’s the case, you probably have a nice house, and the children will expect you to be give heartily. If not, you better have a good security system.

A head of lettuce

Few foodstuffs possess the versatility of lettuce. Lettuce can form the basis of a salad or burrito bowl; be placed inside a wide range of sandwiches including hamburgers; encase the filling of a wrap for a low-carb alternative to tortillas; or even be juiced into a neon green blended beverage. Name one candy bar that is capable of such incredible feats. You can’t, can you? Don’t even try.

This approach leaves a lot of room for creativity. For example, you could even give some children lettuce, while providing others with tomatoes, cucumbers, and packets of kid-friendly dressings such as Caesar or a simple vinaigrette. This will encourage them to work together and combine their efforts to produce more complete meals. Their parents will appreciate that you’ve instilled positive values in their kids with respect to both collaboration and nutrition.

Rice

Rice is always a great gift to receive. In addition to being delicious if prepared properly, it is a low cost source of energy for the body. Adding beans to rice and cooking it in broth adds protein as well, making it a full, well-rounded meal. It can even be used to remove moisture from electronics, which you can count on being a constant problem for children everywhere.

While rice is always cheap, in very large quantities it is extremely cheap. One 50 lb. bag of rice can be purchased for less than $20 at a discount grocery store. Simply pour a cup into each costumed munchkin’s treat bag. Rice expands when cooked, so a little goes a long way!

Water

Parents of smaller children usually supervise them as they walk from door to door collecting their bounty. It’s important to consider your child’s safety, but they often forget about hydration. Handing out water is a great way to show that you care.

Water bottles are bad for the environment and lead to waste. A much better solution is to offer each child a glass of water from a tray. When they’ve returned the glass, simply wash and refill it. Do you know of any junk food that is capable of regenerating itself? Didn’t think so.

So, there you have it. Times are changing, and it’s time for us to adjust. Stop giving out junk food, and help get the next generation of humans on the right path.