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EXPERTS AVAILABLE: MU Experts Offer Tips for Healthy Halloween Celebrations

October 27th, 2011

Story Contact: Emily Martin, (573) 882-3346,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

By Kate McIntyre

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Americans will spend $2 billion on Halloween candy this year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. For many, the sugary treats present an irresistible temptation that can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. University of Missouri nutrition specialists recommend kids and adults celebrate Halloween with healthy celebratory ideas, including balanced eating and fun physical activities.

As an alternative to cupcakes and candy at school parties, Karen Sherbondy, registered dietitian with MU Extension, recommends including games like tag, hop-scotch and hide-and-seek. She suggests offering the hordes of witches, superheroes and zombies who come knocking dollar store items such as:

  • stickers, magnets or school supplies
  • miniature toys or puzzles
  • apples, small boxes of raisins or sugarless gum
  • animal crackers, pretzels, trail mix or granola bars

Rather than trick-or-treating, Ellen Schuster, dietitian and coordinator for Family Nutrition Education Programs in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, says parents might consider Halloween as an opportunity for families to be more active by hosting a get-together.

Schuster and other specialists suggest serving healthy, creative treats on Halloween such as broiled sandwiches cut like faces and Halloween shapes, using ingredients like apple slices, raisins and grated low-fat cheese,  or scooping out a pumpkin and using it to serve soup.

If giving up trick-or-treating sounds like a ghoulish idea, Tammy Roberts, nutrition education specialist and dietitian for Extension, suggests feeding children a festive meal before they trick-or-treat, and then limiting their consumption of candy afterward. To listen to a podcast of Roberts describing creative health tips, visit:

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

Additionally, ensuring children brush their teeth regularly is especially important when they’re eating candy often. “Sugar contributes to tooth decay,” Roberts said. “Bacteria in the mouth eat the sugar and produce an acid that decays the teeth, so it’s especially important that children brush their teeth when they’re eating candy every day.”

For more tips on healthy celebrations, visit