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Happy—and Healthy—Halloween

The best holiday of the year? Halloween, say 65 percent of the kids (ages 5 to 13) surveyed by the American Dental Association (ADA). Creative costumes and autumnal décor make for a fun night for little ones, but trick or treating—which roughly 94 percent of the kids surveyed participate in—is Halloween's signature activity.

If you're concerned about your child's health, weight, and teeth, those mountains of candy earned while trick or treating can seem downright spooky. Before you get witchy and ban all candy, though, consider ways to minimize the damage and maximize the fun.

Trick or Treating

* Provide your child with a good, healthy dinner before heading out to trick or treat—even if that means serving dinner much earlier than usual.

* Give your child a small bag rather than a large one for collecting treats. (No need to set expectations for filling a pillowcase!)

* Walk, don't drive, so your child gets some exercise.

* Shift the goal away from obtaining as much candy as possible. Focus on wishing neighbors a Happy Halloween and making and showing off costumes. Consider collecting for a charity as you trick or treat. Encouragingly, 89 percent of kids surveyed by the ADA said they'd still enjoy Halloween if it were less about candy and more about other kinds of fun.

* Come up with a plan ahead of time for limiting how much candy your little goblin eats on Halloween. (If your child is old enough, he or she can brainstorm with you so you're not the candy cop.) This is a good opportunity to teach moderation.

* Serve something nutritious with the candy when your child does get home and dig in. A big glass of milk and some apple and/or cheese slices will do nicely.

Party On!

Consider substituting a party at home—where you have more control over treats—for trick or treating. Or you might party at home after just a short stint on the streets. Some families enjoy a progressive party for their little ones: They start at ones friend's house, where they have a healthy snack and decorate pumpkins or tell fortunes. Then they proceed to the next person's house, where they have a sweet treat and bob for apples or make a scarecrow, etc. It takes only a few friends to make for a fun-filled progressive party. By planning treats together, you can insure that your children are well nourished and delighted, too.

Here are some ideas for easy, healthful treats that will tickle your child's funny bone:

* Make "candy corn parfaits" by layering pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, and yogurt.

* Fashion popcorn balls to look like pumpkins, with raisins for eyes and celery stick stubs for stems.

* Make individual jack-o-lantern pizzas. Provide sliced olives, kiwi, carrots, and orange and red bell peppers for making faces.

* Make mashed potato ghosts, using black beans for eyes. (Simply pull up the mashed potatoes on the plate, similar to the peaks of whipped egg whites.) Serve alongside burgers (meat or bean), with jack-o-lantern cheese slices melted on top (cut the eyes and mouths out of the cheese slices).

* Using cookie cutters, cut sandwiches or bars into Halloween-themed shapes, such as pumpkins, ghosts, and witches' brooms.

* Mix up a cheese ball recipe and shape into a tombstone before wrapping and refrigerating. Use finely chopped nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds to spell out "Eat in Peace" or some other fun message on the tombstone. Serve with whole grain crackers.

* Sometimes all you need are creative names for dishes: Popcorn seasoned with Frontier Cheddar Cheese Popcorn Seasoning and sprinkled with chocolate chips becomes "Mouse Brains and Droppings;" olives or grapes become "Eyeballs," and a favorite whole grain snack mix becomes "Skeleton Parts."

* Use a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe to make gingerbread ghosts or skeletons instead of traditional gingerbread men. Or make sugar cookies shaped into fingers. Place an almond in the end of each cookie (make a nail bed indentation) before baking, so it looks like a fingernail.

Here's a nutritious, fun, All Hallows' Eve drink:

Of course, if you prefer a harvest theme to a spooky one, all you need are some good seasonal treats. Apples are the go-to choice.

There's no need to throw all notions of healthy eating to the mist on Halloween night. You might still want to make sure your child does an extra good job of tooth brushing that night, though!

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