BUTLER, Mo. – It won’t be long before pint-sized Princess Elsas, Star Wars characters and Minions run through neighborhoods threatening tricks and demanding treats.

Halloween doesn’t have to be a complete sugar-overload holiday. There are simple things that parents can do to keep it fun and healthy.

First, don’t send the little ones out on an empty stomach, said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

“If children have a full belly before they go trick-or-treating, they’re not as tempted by their candy,” Roberts says.

Make the meal fun and festive, she says. Spread cheese on whole-grain bread and let the children create faces using fresh vegetables. Then toast them under the broiler.

After children return home after their romp is a perfect time to teach them about moderation.

“Let them know that candy is OK, but not something we should have every day, and not something we should have a lot of when we have it,” Roberts says. “Have your children choose one or two pieces of candy to enjoy and then save the rest for later.”

One thing you should never do is forbid children from having any candy.

“Whenever you think that you can’t have something, that’s when you will really, really want it,” she says. “If the children know that it’s OK to eat the trick-or-treat candy, having candy in moderation will be much more manageable for the kids and parents.”

Still, many parents don’t feel comfortable handing out empty-calorie treats. There are great alternatives, Roberts says. Things like rings, bracelets, stickers, puzzles and bouncy balls are fun too.

There is one very important job at the end of the Halloween festivities. Remember that candy has a lot of sugar, which isn’t good for teeth, Roberts says. So make sure your Halloween revelers give their teeth a good brushing before they head to bed.

Healthy Halloween Treats — Alternatives to candy you can sink your teeth into: Healthy Halloween treats.

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