Friday, October 19, 2007

Healthy Halloween?

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As I was writing my long novel of a comment on Mama Monster's Halloween post, I began thinking a better place to write about Halloween would be here. She pretty much nailed my sentiments about costumes. Although Khymi won't be here for Halloween (she's making a "butterfly-moth" costume at her mom's house), I'm going to put together a Halloween costume for myself (because I am a kid at heart, or actually, still a kid from many people's perspectives). I am going to be a superhero. Hopefully this will serve to entertain the hordes of trick-or-treaters that will descend upon our doorstep. But I still need something to give them...

Every time I go to a chain drugstore or grocery store these days, I see big discounts on those huge bags of fun-size candy bars. I feel a little conflicted about buying them without a second thought. Don't get me wrong: I actually love junk candy on an individual basis. Three Musketeers, Milky Way, Mounds bars, Butterfinger, Reese's peanut butter cups...bring it on. But my buying habits have changed a lot, if gradually, in the past few years. I don't drink soda anymore, not even in a restaurant or sandwich shop where I could at least justify it by saying, "it's just this once." I hardly ever buy anything at the grocery store that contains corn syrup as a sweetener. It's difficult sometimes, because it's usually that stuff that's the cheapest (see: corn subsidies). So I'm having trouble just casting all that aside to buy bulk packs of mostly corn syrup. I don't look down upon friends and family who do buy them for trick-or-treaters, but when it comes to my own decisions, I'm a little more hesitant.

Half of me is saying, "Lighten up! It's a treat! It's just once a year!" But then I remember that the kids in my neighborhood will definitely be getting their fair share of junk candy--from all the neighbors. I won't be making that huge of a difference if I try for an alternative, but I'll feel better. So what will we give out instead?

Jacob immediately thought of one of his favorite snacks: apples. Oh, you wonderful rural boy. Unfortunately, although giving out apples would be great, and would probably do no harm at all, urban legends about razor blades and poison have pretty much ruined this possibility for urban/suburban trick-or-treaters. Parents won't trust anything edible unless it's got a factory-sealed wrapper. Wasteful, but pretty much necessary. Fair enough.

Kids seem to like those individually-wrapped fruit leathers from places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Our local co-op carries them, too. Great! Nothing but fruit, no added sweeteners, kids like them. Problem is, although 40 or 50 cents each is an easy price to pay for one or a few, buying 100 will cost you upwards of $50, and you can't get a bulk discount. I'm determined about this, but I'm also not made of money. If I had oodles of disposable income, this might be an option worth investing in. But as it is...

Okay, so what about non-edible treats? I remember getting nickels and pennies from some neighbors when I was a kid. Somehow I can't see myself doing that, though. It's sort of like the impersonal aspect of getting money for your birthday, except that usually, you can actually buy something you like with birthday money. Not so much with the pennies.

So then I started looking into the plastic nasties. Cheap plastic toys. I felt kind of weird about that, too. Something mostly useless that a kid will play with for two days and then it'll end up in a landfill. Damn you, conscience! You ruin all the fun.

So here is what I decided on for this year: Halloween bookmarks. They are plastic nasties, but they conceivably have years of use in them, provided that the kids read, which I hope they do! Plus they have the bonus feature of a little traceable Halloween design. They appeal to both younger and older kids. It's the kind of thing I would have liked (and actually kept and used) when I was a kid. Hopefully that'll be true for the kids in my neighborhood. And at four dollars a gross, the price was right.

I have loftier hopes for next year, if I can get my act together. We'll see. Any other suggestions for trick-or-treat alternatives?

P.S. Soon after I posted this, Jacob happened to send me a link to this blog article on the Washington Post website today. Take a look.


Annie said...

Kids are never going to eschew sweet treats, so how about organic raisins? You can get them in the little paper boxes, so they're easily dispensable. I used to actually really like the raisins I got from the neighborhood hippies when I was a kid.

maria said...

that's a good idea. i totally didn't think of raisins (which i also got trick-or-treating when i was a kid). they're not quite as cheap as candy, but definitely cheaper than fruit leather. jacob insists they're bad for your teeth, but...on halloween, i think that ship has sailed.

Mama Monster said...

I refuse to buy products with added HFCS. I do drink a VERY occasional soda. I buy candy maybe 2 times a year- one time being Halloween. I'm of the moderation school of thought. And totally banning all candy/sweets would probably result in kids who are horde it or gorge on when they get it- and they will get it. But I totally identify with feeling ambivilent about handing it out. I've heard that some parents hand out mini bags of pretzels.

Anonymous said...

The article about corn is good, but there's a lot more info on the same subject in Michael Pollan's latest book, now in paperback, The Omnivore's Dilemna. I just finished it myself, and highly recommend it!