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Prairie Fare: Halloween Tricksters: Enjoy Some Treats

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Sugar does not “cause” diabetes or hyperactivity as has been suggested.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, what should I be for Halloween this year?” my 13-year-old son asked me the other day.

“You’re going trick or treating again this year?” I responded.

“Well, yeah,” my candy-loving son said matter-of-factly.

“I plan to keep going trick or treating as long as possible,” he added.

“You also have a 5-year-old sister. You can take her trick or treating until you’re in college,” I suggested.

Somehow, my suggestion was not very appealing to him.

Soon my three kids, transformed into a mime, zombie teen singer and bumblebee, will be haunting our neighborhood. Yes, they will be picking up lots of sweet treats, but sugar isn’t the villain it sometimes is portrayed to be.

For example, sugar does not “cause” diabetes or hyperactivity as has been suggested. As soon as my kids put on their Halloween costumes, they become a little hyperactive from the situation, without being activated by candy.

We need to keep moderation and portion control in mind, of course, because too many calories from any source can lead to weight gain.

In other words, consuming the contents of a trick-or-treat container within the first 24 hours is not a good plan for anyone. Remember, Halloween candy is not like perishable leftover food that needs to be eaten in a few days. Candy has a much longer shelf life.

The former “Food Guide Pyramid” placed sweets and fats at the tip of the pyramid to remind us about moderation. However, candy and other treats are not included on MyPyramid, the latest food guidance system found at

Sweet treats and high-fat foods are in a separate category called “discretionary calories.”

The good news: We all get some discretionary calories after we meet the recommendations for grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat/beans. For most people, the discretionary calorie allotment is about 200 to 300 calories per day.

To put the idea of moderation into practice, consider dividing the Halloween loot into small treat bags with just a few small pieces of candy to enjoy daily.

On Halloween, be sure that kids have a meal or snack before hitting the trick-or-treating trail so they are not tempted to indulge before arriving at home. Be sure their costumes do not pose a tripping hazard. If they are trick-or-treating in a neighborhood instead of a mall, be sure they have a flashlight or reflective tape on their costumes.

Inspect treats when kids arrive home. If the packaging shows signs of tampering or damage, discard the treat.

Check that treats for young children do not pose a choking hazard. Be sure that kids brush their teeth thoroughly after enjoying their sweet treats, too.

Consider some healthier food options and nonfood items to add variety to the treat containers of your visiting goblins. They include:

  • Pencils with novelty erasers
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Stickers
  • Cereal bars
  • Juice boxes
  • Dried fruit
  • Single-serving cereal boxes

Here’s an easy recipe adapted from the U.S. Apple Association. Slice some tart apples to enjoy with this caramel-like dip. A serving of this treat is much lower in calories and fat than a slice of apple pie.

Apple Dip

8-ounce package of light cream cheese, softened

3/4 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Chopped peanuts (optional)

Beat all ingredients until blended. Garnish with chopped nuts if desired. Serve with freshly sliced tart apples.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 126 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat and 21 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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