BUTLER, Mo. – It won’t be long before ghosties, ghoulies, princesses and pirates will run through neighborhoods, demanding treats and idly threatening tricks.

Halloween, the sugar-overload holiday for children, doesn’t need to be about candy. Tammy Roberts, nutrition education specialist for University of Missouri Extension, says there are plenty of treats that don’t involve empty calories.

“Instead of candy, you can hand out apples, small boxes of raisins, Halloween stickers or small puzzles or pencils, plastic snakes or sugarless gum,” Roberts said.

Halloween is also a great opportunity to teach children about moderation, she said.

“Children are going to come home with a whole bag full of candy,” Roberts said. “So if you can teach them to choose just a few pieces of candy on Halloween night, and then a few pieces each day after Halloween, you’re teaching moderation.”

Begin the moderation lessons by feeding trick-or-treaters before they head out on their Halloween hunt. Children might be too excited to eat, so make the meal festive, Roberts said.

“Have children create faces using various vegetables on cheese sandwiches and then cook them in the broiler,” she said. “Another idea is to scoop out a pumpkin and use it as a soup tureen and serve it with the sandwiches.”

Halloween is also a great time to teach children about the importance of caring for their teeth.

“Sugar contributes to tooth decay,” Roberts said. “Bacteria in the mouth eat the sugar and produce an acid that decays the teeth, so tooth-brushing is especially important when children are eating candy every day.”

In general, it’s not a good idea to forbid or restrict candy outright. It’s human nature to want things we can’t have, but teaching children that candy is OK in moderation will help keep them from hoarding or becoming obsessed with the forbidden fruit.

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