On Halloween, the Trick is to Change the Treats!

October 25, 2017 by Joel Fuhrman, MD

Health Concerns: Children's Health

We all remember a dejected Charlie Brown looking down into his Trick or Treat bag and proclaiming “I got a rock!” But opting out of the candy free-for-all doesn’t have to be a letdown to the trick-or-treaters who come to your door this holiday. With a little creativity, it is easy to become a good role model, provide healthy alternatives to traditional candy, and make the costumed ghosts, goblins and witches leave happy. In fact, if your “treat” is cool enough, your house will become known as the house to go to. I know our house was that house once we started giving out glow-in-the-dark necklaces.

Halloween is a great holiday to get the whole family involved in making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. I know of one family that has fun by decorating clementine oranges with spooky, scary, and silly jack-o’-lantern faces. The kids and parents have a lot of laughs, and enjoy seeing each other’s creative side by making this a family project. And the bonus is that in a short time, their decorations become festive, healthful and yes, sweet, treats to hand out that evening.

Though popular culture encourages us to let our kids ingest mountains of sugary junk food on Halloween — and for days afterwards —the negative health effects of sugar and other sweeteners are well-documented. In addition to weight gain, studies have linked sugar consumption to lower intelligence, anxiety, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In addition, repeated exposure to artificial sweets dulls our taste buds to the natural sweetness of healthful alternatives like berries and other fresh fruits. This perpetuates cravings for more sweets, and ultimately leads to diabetes and obesity.

My new book, Fast Food Genocide documents the real horrors of Halloween and our nation’s obsession with dangerous eating. There is no doubt about it: candy damages bodies and brains; and kills millions prematurely.  

On this night of the year, let’s make sugar disappear! Instead of harming children, why not choose a fun, clever, entertaining or healthful treat for the princesses, monsters, and ghouls who knock on your door:

* Glow sticks, necklaces or bracelets – light them up when you hand them out so your night-time trick or treaters remain visible to cars.
* Bubbles – entertainment in a bottle!
* Mini Play Doh containers – let the littlest goblins pick their own colors. 
* Balsa wood gliders, flying discs and paddle ball games.
* How about superballs, whistles or Halloween-themed book marks?

Let’s help each other out: How have you handled Halloween and other holidays that celebrate sugar, and harmful junk food at your home? Share your suggestions in the comments section below. 


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.


Comments (0):



10/27/2017 11:42 AM

My friend who works in a dental office gives out toothbrushes, kid toothpaste and floss!  :)



10/27/2017 11:47 AM

I remember back in '67, one house had given out brooches for the girls in the shape of the maple leaf for the centennial. Thought that was a cool treat.


10/27/2017 11:52 AM

Yes! I remember when my children were young and “discovered” trick-or-treating from a friend:/ I told them that a fairy king would transform their non-food candy into something specil, so they put their bags of candy on the front porch and in the morning would find a jar of pickles or something they really enjoyed.... and it would be all theirs:) My children had no problem giving away their candy that way!

sierrael replies:

10/28/2017 06:48 AM

A jar of pickles......I can't 



10/27/2017 12:08 PM

I give out Halloween themed pencils.


10/27/2017 12:30 PM

 When I was in elementary school teacher we would make monster faces. I got icky  green paper plates and then offered a variety of vegetables to make the features out of. I had grated carrot, cucumber slices, grated beet, cooked whole wheat noodles,   Sunflower seeds, grape tomatoes, etc.  The children would make the faces on their paper plates then I would take photographs, and finally, they would eat them up. I was amazed at how many vegetables the kids would eat on Halloween day. 


10/27/2017 12:34 PM

I love the first suggestion, glowsticks, necklaces, and bracelets (Anything that glows or emits light). I know lots of kids who would love these and even many adults such as myself. But the toothbrush and toothpaste idea has to be classic as this was popular even when I was a kid some 40 years ago.


10/27/2017 12:34 PM

Oh, I'm so excited about the things I bought to hand out this year!  I just have to share:

- A bucket of little plastic safari animals with 12 different species, and a set of dinosaurs the same size (plastic animals have historically gone amazingly quickly when I've let the kids choose between these and other options in past years)

- A bag of glow-in-the-dark rubber duckies in halloween costumes (I noticed the kids go crazy for the rubber ducks they can get for selling enough stuff in school fundraisers, so that's how I got that idea)

- And my favorite, a bag of mini-plushies on keychains, with emoji faces!  Even some pokemon emojis!  My kids had to have the pikachus and a couple of others, haha... but I'll be giving away the rest :)

I was able to get all of these online for right around 50 cents a piece, and I'm planning to let each trick-or-treater pick one, so it ends up being about the same as what we were spending letting each of them grab a small handful of the 12-cent-each candies we used to give out years ago...  I love that we're no longer "feeding the candy beast" (as I like to call supporting the candy industry), and feedback from everyone that has come to our door has been positive too - both parents and kids!  So I would encourage everyone out there reading this, to not be afraid to make the switch!


10/27/2017 12:36 PM

We give out bottled water.  By the time kids get to our house they are thirsty from running around.  


10/27/2017 12:43 PM

We give out apples, hot apple cider, and popcorn.  The focus being on harvest, not Halloween.  We make something with pumpkin every few nights the week before.


10/27/2017 12:56 PM

My friends Matt and Jenn support the "Which Witch".  Their kids collect the candy and then take it to the Which Witch who allows them to trade out the candy for toys.



10/27/2017 01:08 PM

Stickers! All kids love stickers. You just need to find some way to give it to them without them getting messed up in their bag.


10/27/2017 01:09 PM

Also, one year I gave the kids 50 cents instead of candy so they could go and get what they wanted.


10/27/2017 01:21 PM

I have been giving out glowsticks every year for a number of years now.  Last year we offered the glowsticks and candy, with the stipulation that the kids could pick only one.  The majority picked the glowsticks!  I was amazed!



10/27/2017 01:34 PM

@ the Dollar Store I found 6-packs of small-boxes-of-raisins, and 6-packs of small-bags-of-peanuts.... all for... wait-for-it... $1 each, and if we have left-overs, I'll keep them in my car for healthy treats when we go to the movies.

DVLehrkind replies:

10/27/2017 06:44 PM

These treats are why people give non-food.......the peanuts are giving me a stroke. 

Sandi replies:

10/27/2017 11:27 PM

DVLehrkind, what’s wrong with dried fruit and nuts compared to candy? Peanuts may not be as healthy as other nuts, but a stroke....really?

CathyRHM replies:

10/28/2017 04:33 PM

So many children are allergic to peanuts. Too dangerous for a Halloween treat

MelissaCarole replies:

01/18/2018 09:41 PM

Good ideas! If someone is allergic to peanuts they can have theraisons!

Kat Makiah

10/27/2017 02:08 PM

I play a game. Have them pick a number from 1 to 10. If they get the number on the card, they get a quarter. If not they get a dime. I have 10 cards and shuffle them after each child guesses. I tell them we are going to test their intuition. I look at the number and then give them an opportunity to read my mind. 


10/27/2017 02:26 PM

All of these ideas are so creative! Thanks for sharing.


10/27/2017 03:27 PM

These are great ideas Dr. Fuhrman!


10/27/2017 04:29 PM

I have passed out children's toothbrushes. They have popular characters on them. Parents are very happy and kids too.


10/27/2017 06:26 PM

Pistachio Nuts in a bag for treats. 


10/27/2017 06:41 PM

I am giving $! bills.  That's what the candy, nuts, toys cost me.  I have very happy Trick or Treaters!!!!


10/28/2017 08:51 PM

When I was a child (in the 1960s) we used to let kids trick or treat for coins for UNICEF. The activity got to be so popular that big kids would rob little kids of the collected coins. So I give out the same types of playthings that have already been suggested, but not spendable money