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Healthy for Halloween?

We finally moved to a neighborhood where kids actually trick-or-treat. There's a Halloween parade and people decorate their houses. So I want to stock up on goodies. Husband is lobbying for the traditional snickers bars and such but I wanted to do a higher quality, somewhat healthier option. Went to Whole Foods. They have a very limited selection and YIKES - the prices! $2-3 per piece. I don't want to do home-made because people are understandably nervous about things that aren't solidly wrapped.

Any ideas?

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    1. Go savory. Annie's Cheddar Bunny Snack Packs. Or individual snack packets of pretzels. You could also do those peanut butter cracker sandwich packs.

      Or. Boxes of animal cookies. If you can find individually shrink-wrapped boxed of raisins. I haven't found any "mini-boxes" that are shrink-wrapped, but the regular snack sizes often are.

      Except for the raisins, these might all be a little bit pricier than the average Halloween candy, but hopefully not budget-busting.

      I'll be giving out something like this this year because they are also pretty toddler-friendly and we expect all of our toddler friends to stop by.

      ~TDQ

      8 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Animal crackers! Great idea. Personally, I'd love to give raisins or craisins but I know that the kids will always hate me for it. Maybe I can give them yoghurt-covered raisins or yoghurt-covered pretzels, if I can find small, individual packets. I had been thinking of M&M with almonds or sugared almonds - again, if I can find small packets. Except I am nervous about giving out nuts, in case some kid with an allergy manages to eat one before the parents can weed out the stuff they aren't supposed to eat.

        1. re: Just Visiting

          Pretty much all candy is made in plants that could contain trace nuts. If you give them out they will be easily identified. My cousin can't even have plain M and Ms.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            My kid has a nut allergy, so she will probably never do the trick or treating thing. I feel awful but it's not worth her life or a fun evening in the ER

            1. re: autumm

              Can you let her trick or treat and then buy the candy off her to donate to a dentist who will send it to the troops? Then she can still get the experience of trick or treating? Sorry, I'm sure you've already thought through your options and decided this is the best approach. Don't mean to be second-guessing you at all.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: autumm

                Eh. We never went trick or treating (due to religious beliefs and my horrendous fear of all things scary) and didn't miss out. I wouldn't feel bad about it. There are all sorts of fun fall activities you can do instead.

                1. re: autumm

                  It is still possible to do Trick or Treat for UNICEF http://www.trickortreatforunicef.org/

                  My kids liked this a lot. When my daughter was in junior high, too old for trick or treating, she got one of the school clubs to sponsor a trick or treat for the local homeless shelter. They filled a whole truck with canned goods, and got to dress up besides!

                  1. re: DebinIndiana

                    I love the trick or treat for a shelter idea-I bet you could amass a ton of stuff. And it would be fun for those jr high/high school kids who still want to dress up. I work in a high school 1 day/week and I think I'm going to share this.

                    1. re: ErnieD

                      You are right -- it was great fun for the big kids to have an excuse to dress up like the little kids, and they did get a ton (maybe literally -- can't remember) of stuff. Got their pictures in the paper, too, loading the truck in costume.

                      This idea, or the trick or treat for UNICEF, seems like a natural for a middle or high school service club.

                      Two hints: They passed out fliers ahead of time, so that people would have an idea what they were doing, but there was still a lot of explaining to do.
                      Also, you HAVE to take a wagon and a car into which you unload the wagon. Canned goods are HEAVY!

                      and, bonus: most people who dug out a can or two also insisted that the kids take some candy for themselves. A lot of that went to the shelter, too, but the kids got to pig out on some.

            2. You might be fighting a losing battle. Halloween is all about the snickers etc....I still remember the houses that gave out apples, peanuts and yikes raisins. They all went in the garbage.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Gloriaa

                Agreed. Trick or treating is not about quality or healthy or wholesome or all natural. The raisins and such didn't get eaten when I was a kid and they probably still don't. Even if you could afford large quantities of the candies at Whole Foods, the kids might not appreciate those either (although their parents may enjoy them). My goddaughters don't like the fair trade organic 70-80% chocolate I buy at WF - not sweet enough.

                1. re: Gloriaa

                  me, too. It's one night a year, and you're not their mother -- their mom (or other adult) is responsible for deciding what they eat and when. Let' 'em have their fun.

                  At our house, Halloween candy is popular for about three days -- I chuck anything that hasn't been eaten at Christmas -- most of the bucket, actually.

                  I was never involved, but it wasn't unusual for the houses giving "healthy" treats to end up bearing the brunt of the egging, soaping, and TPing when I was growing up.

                  The guy in my neighborhood now who sits at the end of his driveway (stay off my lawn!) and gives out toothbrushes just gets ignored.

                  1. re: Gloriaa

                    Halloween is only about the snickers because apparently we have collectively bought into that, even those of us who apparently feel we should give something else. (Personally, I've always thought Halloween was about the costumes...) What if we collecting decided to stop giving junk and instead, gave out something really good? Sure, we'd have to spend more, but maybe the focus would shift to quality rather than quantity, but it might just be something you'd make room for in the family budget. But, if everyone was doing it, you'd feel okay about it instead of feeling like the chump who is giving out something good and getting back only garbage?

                    My toddler would be delighted to get raisins--he loves them. I, on the other hand, can't stand them.

                    We stopped eating any chocolate other than fair trade chocolate about two years ago when CNN did a piece on it for its Freedom project. When my child reaches the age where everyone wants the snickers, we may have to figure something else out. Either dig deeper in our pockets financially for good chocolate or something else. But, I don't think we should have to take a break from teaching and modeling family values just because it's Halloween. But doing it without your child feeling like the weirdo on the block is the challenge of course. And still have it be fun, too.

                    When I was young, a woman on our block, a blind widow, gave pomegranates from her tree. We hated it because it wasn't candy, even though we knew it was all she had to give and even though I actually loved pomegranates. My parents used to buy them off of us, the same way they bought off of us anything that was homemade or looked like the wrapper was torn or tampered with. So, I do worry about being "that house", but I'll tell you what, it made an impression on me that I've never forgotten. I don't know, maybe it's not so bad to make an impression if you do it right and for the important enough reasons. Plus, it seems strange to abandon your values because you're afraid of what the neighborhood children might think of you.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      What's your definition of good? I think this is the inherent issue with this question. What's healthy? Is it ingredients, sugar content, sourcing, etc? To me raisins aren't really something healthy I'd go around popping, small balls of sugar.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        Well, everyone has to define what "good" is for themselves, of course. For me good means that harvest and production doesn't rely on child slave labor (but I don't believe this is at all what the OP meant by "healthier" by the way), and that it also tastes good. It would be great it were also affordable. And didn't contain any transfats. I don't know what the OP thinks is good. But I think most of us who post on Chowhound would probably agree that Snickers isn't "good" chocolate, though, obviously, enough people love it that remains a every popular candy year in and year out.

                        I know everyone keeps saying "It's only one night." No, it really isn't. One year my brother and I had Halloween candy well into Easter. And, yes, you can trade your kids for the candy, but don't you deep in your heart wish you didn't have to sort out the crappy artiificial dye and transfat candy just the same as you wish you didn't have to sort out the razor blade candy?

                        But, to say that it Halloween has to be about Snickers because that's what the kids want just sounds defeatist to me. When did it become mandatory to distribute chocolate, and not just any chocolate, but certain actual name-branded chocolate? And when did Halloween become only about candy rather than carving pumpkins and making costumes and building haunted houses and other ghoulish fall activities?

                        Raisins in those tiny little boxes (the mini boxes, about an inch tall) don't seem to trigger a total sugar melt-down in my toddler the same way as, say, the lollipop (of which he only ate half) the cashier at our local grocery gave him the other day. And my toddler loves them (raisins). Let me reiterate, raisins are one of only two foods I absolutely despise and refuse to eat, so this is not my personal preference. But, for my toddler, I'd also be fine with some crackers that don't have transfats in them. Or small cookies that aren't too sugary. But, to be honest, this entire paragraph is oriented to my toddler-aged child. I don't honestly think people should be buying their Halloween candy with toddlers in mind. I think older kids are really the target audience we should all be keeping in mind.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Well, yes but my point is that OP should probably specify so to what their definition of "healthy" is. Sign me up for the pumpkin carving and hay rides btw, great point! I used to count the days for our annual trip to the Maize Maze.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                You are right. I hate when people write super-vague posts (Hi, where should I have dinner in your city?) and then I do it myself. Apologies! I meant less sugary, no HFCS, better quality ingredients, and basically, better choices. I've been googling and not coming up with much. I did find some ideas that hit some of the criteria. For instance, a 100 Grand Bar has 90 fewer calories and 8g fat compared to 14g fat in a Snickers.
                                Granola bars (which in my view are just healthier junk food, but still, healthier, not perfect, is the goal).

                                Based on the number of google hits, it would seem I'm not the only one who is trying to find something better. The Unreal line and the TJ's organics seem like the way I will go.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            also, fwiw, i don't believe that i MUST give out large portions of candy.
                            the kids are hitting up at least 7 houses each.
                            to me, this means that a VERY SMALL amount of candy should be adequate.
                            my goal is NOT to help keep them supplied with candy for a month.
                            each kid gets to pick out two SMALL pieces of candy: that's all.
                            the little kids are plenty pleased with this (the whole process of picking something out and taking your time to decide what you like best seems to resonate with them) as are their parents.
                            the older kids still come year after year, so they can't be totally displeased.
                            i've NEVER been "tricked"

                          2. re: Gloriaa

                            One year I ran out, so the older kids, who came later, got apples from an orchard expedition the previous week. I was apologetic but a couple of the tween girls SEEMED genuinely pleased. "Oh, apples!" delivered enthusiastically with no perceptible tinge of sarcasm.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I would hope and expect that children would be gracious and polite to anyone generous enough to open their homes and gift them with anything. I could never convince my children that fruit was natures candy!

                            2. re: Gloriaa

                              Agreed. Halloween is for fun. The trick or treating is unabashedly for CANDY and junk. I remember going Trick or Treating with pillowcases. After the deed was done, we would convene at friends' homes and "trade" candy, throw out the stuff that wasn't in boxes or bags, and we would eat candy till we got sick of it.
                              We had a blast when we lived in Manhattan--the kids loved going trick or treating in apartment buildings. NY'ers LOVE to give great candy!!!!

                              1. Do you have access to "Unreal Candy" products? I am partial to their version of peanut MM's. They are now readily available at many big box retailers like Target and Stop & Shop.
                                http://getunreal.com

                                However as you found out at WF buying a better quality product is going to cost you more than your average mass market product. Places like Walmart, Target and national chain grocery stores buy that kind of Halloween candy in bulk and use it as a loss leader to get in you in the door.

                                Halloween happens once a year and it's not up to you to regulate the quality of candy a kids eats-it's the parents. If the parents don't want them eating "junk" they will either stay home or work out some kind of post Halloween deal with their kids. So if "better" candy is a budget buster for you buy what you can afford and let the parents deal with the aftermath.

                                21 Replies
                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  Never heard of it but just looked it up. Sounds like a good option. Thanks!

                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    That unreal candy sounds great! Not only does it not have the GMOs and corn syrup, but they are trying to avoid the whole child-slave-labor problem.
                                    My rough unscientific comparison by looking on Amazon seems to indicate that it's typically about twice, sometimes three times, the price of the national branded candy. That's not a deal-breaker for me, I don't think. I might try this this year!

                                    I wonder if I could buy some samples and hand them out to my neighbors in advance of Halloween this year and see how many converts I could get? Too nanny'ish?

                                    In any case, thank you for point this out.

                                    Per Amazon, Unreal Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bar, if you buy the 7.76 ounces (which is 10 22 gram candies of the same sizes as a Milky Way "Mini" ) is $0.64 per ounce vs. Milky Way FUN SIZE (I can't find a price on Milky Way Minis) which is .36 per ounce. So, almost double the price, for a close, but not perfectly comparable product.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/UNREAL-Candy-Ch...

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Milky-Way-Size-...

                                    Their peanut butter cups are .46 per piece vs. Reeces Peanut Butter Cup "minis" which are .16 per piece, so almost three times the cost.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/UNREAL-Candy-Pe...

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Reeses-Miniatur...

                                    And their Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts are $1.45 per 1.5 ounce bag vs. Peanut M&M's which are .74 cents per 1.74 ounce bag, so almost twice the price.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Unreal-Candy-Co...

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Peanut-Chocolat...

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      HAHAHA! So, I just asked my husband if I could order some of these Unreal candies and let some of our close neighbors try them in advance of halloween. His eyes got really big. He didn't even have to say no. He said, "Let them find out because their kids come home with it." And I said, "But, what if they don't have kids?" And he said, "If they are interested, they'll find out."

                                      And then he said, "Kids want Snickers and Reese's. They don't want hippy candy."

                                      *sigh*

                                      I might try the unreal candy anyway. If it tastes good, why not? Still will hand out raisins and bunny crackers for the little ones as I did last year.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I have to agree that kids want candy that they recognize, at least we did.

                                        1. re: salsailsa

                                          We did, too, as I mentioned in the story about the blind widow who gave out pomegranates. I totally get it. But there are still good, recognizable alternatives to non-fair-trade chocolate.

                                          Personally, for the big kids, I give Pearson's Salted Nut rolls fresh from the factory that is a couple of miles from my house. I love that salty-sweet-crunchy-chewy combo.

                                          I don't think they are especially healthy, which is why I didn't recommend it to the OP, but it's what I hand out. Ideally the minis so I can let the kids take a handful. If I hand out the big ones, I just drop one in each bag, which I don't think is as fun for them.

                                          But I really am going to investigate that unreal candy. If it doesn't taste good, I'm not going to hand it out. But, if it does, I might hand it out with the Salted Nut Rolls. The more people hand them out, the more it will be a candy kids recognize. If they are selling it at Target, it could really catch on.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I am munching on an Unreal peanut butter cup as I type this. Purchased yesterday at Target (2-pack). Pretty good. I'm not certain but I believe it was around $.89.

                                            1. re: Pwmfan

                                              Not bad, right? Where did you buy it, if you don't mind my asking?

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Target, in the regular candy aisle (not the Halloween section

                                                1. re: Pwmfan

                                                  Thanks! That's where I found it, too.

                                                  ~TDQ

                                    2. re: foodieX2

                                      If you take them out of the packaging, do they look like the name brand products they are supposed to be replacing? My co-workers are candy-crazy. I wonder if I could do a blind taste test on these?

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        They do look just like them except for the M&M's which don't have the telltale "M" on them.

                                        Our local Target and Stop and Shop have them and they are more expensive than the mass market brands but I didn't notice them being double-maybe it's the time of year? Halloween candy is *so* cheap right now!

                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                          I think it's because I looked up the prices on Amazon. I don't think you get the most competitive pricing on Amazon--it's really about convenience. I'm going to check out Target.

                                          ~TDQ

                                      2. re: foodieX2

                                        OK, here's the deal on the Unreal Candy, at least as it is at my local Target.

                                        First of all, it's stocked with the regular candy in the front, not the Halloween candy and costumes in the back.

                                        They carry 4 knock-off varieties in "bulk" packaging: peanut M&M's and plain M&Ms, not individually wrapped. And individually-wrapped Reese's Miniatures and Snickers Fun Size. They also carry single serving full-sizes of all of this, but that's not comparable to Halloween Candy, I don't think, so I'm not going to report on it.

                                        The price for $3.99 for all four if you got a bag of it. A bag size is typically somewhere between 6.3oz (for the Reeses Minis for instance, 12 pieces) -8.5oz (for the Snickers Fun Size for instance, 10 pieces). That prices the Reeses minis knock-offs at 33 cents a piece and the Snickers Fun Size knock-offs at 40 cents a piece.

                                        The Snickers Fun Size and Reeses Miniatures came in 11.18oz and 12 oz packs respectively. They are both normally $3.24 and are currently on sale for $2.89. (Oh, I just realized my Reese's -the actual Reese's, not the knock offs, are "Reese's Dark"--I don't know if that makes a difference in price or not. I don't think so.)

                                        So, it looks like you get less candy for a higher price with the knock-offs, which of course isn't surprising.

                                        If I'm doing this correctly, if you adjust for packaging size, the Reese's knock-offs are about 2.6 times the price by weight of the actual Reese's on sale (because I assume anyone buying Halloween candy is going to buy it on sale) and the Snicker's knockoffs are about 2 times the price of the actual Snickers on sale.

                                        If you open the bags and look at the way the candies are individually-wrapped, there is no way anyone could mistake one of the knock-offs for the real thing.

                                        The chocolate shell of the knock-off Reese's is thinner--it's a flatter candy. Also, no paper wrapping. The peanut butter is softer and overall, I think, it's a more peanut-buttery experience. I would eat these, no problem.

                                        RE: the Snickers vs. the knock-off, well I think I need to take a longer break after eating doing the Reese's comparison, but my immediate impression is that the Snicker's is a more compact candy somehow and that give's it a better texture. More peanuts in every bite, somehow. Still, I'd eat the knock-off.

                                        The knock-offs seem plenty sweet to me, by the way.

                                        I'll try to do some taste-testing with my co-workers later, but there's no way it could a blind taste test.

                                        I'll try to post photos tonight.

                                        ETA: one more thing, they didn't seem to have a lot of it. If you wanted to purchase enough of it to hand out to kids, you probably could, but you might have to buy out everything that's currently on the shelf. It's way up high--my guess is Unreal isn't paying a premium for shelf-space. Hopefully they have lots more in the back.

                                        Also, it's about a buck per pack cheaper at Target than it was on Amazon.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Thanks for conducting the reconnaissance mission, TDQ! Lots of options...

                                          1. re: ohmyyum

                                            Here's a guy who really seems to know his candy and comments not only on taste, texture and appearance, but also smell and meltability and so on.

                                            http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/un...

                                            http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/un...

                                            He gives the faux Snickers and faux Reese's PB cup both a 9 out of 10, which means he likes the Snicker's-knock-off better than I did.

                                            He does have a concern about the lack of transparency in their labeling and their use of inulin, a common "filler" he says. Apparently that's one way they are bringing fiber up and calories down.

                                            Also, you're entirely taking their word for it regarding fair treatment of workers (which was my #1 concern about mass-produced chocolate), they aren't fair trade certified.

                                            "UNREAL works closely with a broker to secure cacao from co-ops in Ecuador and Ghana. They said, “Our Brokers on the ground work with them daily to ensure the best quality of product and that people and planet are not being damaged in the process.” There is no third party certification for any of this, so it is not certified fair trade or sustainable but they did say that there is an auditing process by the buyers. "

                                            So, I guess it just depends on how much you trust a company run by a 16-year-old and his Venture Capitalist dad. I'm not sure I'm ready to dive in with this product yet. I might stick with my Pearson's Salted Nut rolls for the older kids.

                                            He gives the plain M&M knock-offs a 7 out of 10 (too bitter) and the peanut M&M knock-offs an 8 out of 10.

                                            http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/un...

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Love Candyblog but pretty sure Cybele is female.

                                              1. re: jadec

                                                HAHA! Thanks for that!

                                                ETA: she is in the same boat I am, btw:

                                                "Last year I gave out Unreal Candy, which is ethically sourced and uses natural ingredients. I’d like to find another chocolate candy that is certified (not using child slaves), but it’s hard to find candy items for kids that are well priced (we have about 40 kids visit) and also of actual interest to kids."

                                                http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/ca...

                                                That's the crux of the problem, right:

                                                "well priced (we have about 40 kids visit) and also of actual interest to kids."

                                                Doesn't even really address the healthy aspect of the chocolate. I like what the quote from the this co-worker of a writer from Fortune: " 'I'm not eating it to be healthy. I just want some chocolate.'"

                                                http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/10/2...

                                                ~TDQ

                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            So, I decided not to taste test the candy with my co-workers. I have the bad feeling they would just be polite and/or undiscerning and merely say it was good out of their need to be unfailingly Minnesota nice.

                                            My husband tried both and said they were awful. "Our house will get egged for sure," he said. (For he record, our house has never been egged and I don't think it's a real threat at all, even though I've now brought it up twice in this thread.)

                                            Awful? I said. Well, he backed down and said the peanut butter cup was okay. But the Snickers thing he thought was really inferior and he cited the same thing I did, which was texture. There's something about the way they make Snickers that ensures there a peanut in every bite whereas in the Unreal candy the peanuts were distributed unevenly. He said, "It's like something your grandmother would make,"
                                            meaning a little random whereas there is nothing random about a Snickers bar.

                                            Anyway, in the end, he summarized his complaints as follows:

                                            1. Both use dark chocolate and neither of their analogs do (remember I tasted the Unreal peanut butter cup against Reese's dark accidentally, so I was probably less bothered by it.).
                                            2. Not sweet enough. He thought neither was sufficiently sweet overall and also specifically mentioned the peanut butter filling not being sweet enough.
                                            3. Wrong texture on the "Snickers"

                                            And then we had a long conversation on other candies we thought were good at Halloween as kids--little boxes of Good & Plenty being his fav. Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies being my fav. Do they even make those anymore? (ETA: and wow, how time has marched on, the first few hits when you google sugar babies. Best to Google sugar babies candy. And, yes, the same company that makes tootsie rolls still makes sugar babies.)

                                            I think if I were going to give these away, I'd give away the peanut butter cups. As it is, I'm going to give away all of the candy from my taste test, conventional and Unreal, then the Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls (my husband endorses this saying he believes the kids will find it a desirable candy and at least I know I will be supporting a local business and people with nice union jobs) and toddler snacks. If any big kids wanted Annie's Bunny Crackers, I wouldn't stop them. Can't imagine they would want the raisins or apple sauce though the toddlers went wild for them last year.

                                            I might consider handing out rice krispie bars for the gluten free kids, but I'm not really sold on that. I'm not aware of any children on the block who follow GF diet, and what are the odds otherwise? Besides, as folks have already mentioned, people keep their kids with food allergies away on Halloween.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              I thought Unreal candy bars were nasty.
                                              And yes, I would recommend giving out the traditional stuff or nothing at all.

                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              For what it's worth, Unreal Candy pics, two of the display at Target and two of the candy vs. its analogue, wrapped and unwrapped.

                                              ~TDQ