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Shocking though it may seem, the celebration of Halloween as a time to binge on candy is a recent phenomenon. For thousands of years this holiday has been a time to celebrate the transition from summer and the harvest to the start of the dark, cold winter. Of course this was often associated with death and ghosts. People built bonfires and danced in costumes. Apples were incorporated about 2,000 years ago by the Romans to honor their goddess of fruit and trees. Now we celebrate candy corn and chocolate instead.

This year I have teamed up with some friends who also want Halloween to be more than candy in a bag. We have planned an evening that will include making a homemade volcano erupt, having the kids put on a play in their costumes, face painting and hide-and-go seek in the dark, spooky backyard. We will have some fun and healthy snacks and maybe one homemade treat at the end.

For those that do go trick-or-treating you can still encourage children to “share” their candy through a dentist buyback program. Another creative idea, shared by Food Service Director Robert Lewis of El Monte, California: candy eating monster trash cans in every classroom! Students are encouraged to bring in extra candy after Halloween and “feed” it to the monsters. The district plans to send the collection to the troops overseas.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers some additional tips to celebrate this holiday without taking away the fun!

1. Trick-or-Walk. Leave the cars at home on Halloween and enjoy the long walk with your family. Commit to walking together every night after dinner and enjoying the fall weather as a family.

2. Keep the party at home. Instead of trick-or-treating, invite friends over for a bonfire, scavenger hunt, dance party or spooky hide and go seek.

3. Appreciate the art. Focus your efforts on creating unique costumes to impress friends and neighbors. Celebrate with artful and homemade snacks afterwards like a graveyard made out of spinach hummus, broccoli trees and hard boiled ghosts.

4. Exchange it. Depending on the age of the children, you can have a fairy come visit and exchange the candy for a toy, or have older children participate in a dentist buyback program.

5. Snacks can be scary and not sinful. There is no shortage of creative ideas on the web for healthier Halloween snacks like carrot fingers, watermelon brains and banana ghosts. Let children decide which ones they want to make and have them help to build excitement.


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