Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
With kids, it seems there is always a reason for parties, treats or rewards. It’s easy to think of candy, cake or soda, but with more than 1 in 3 American children and adolescents overweight or obese, it is time to think about fun and healthy alternatives for party treats.
Whether it is birthday treats for school, Halloween trick-or-treats, or favors for a Christmas party at church or scouts, there are lots of great options that promote health instead of encouraging unhealthy choices.
Though overeating may be a factor in causing obesity, body weight is affected by both caloric intake and expenditure. A healthy balance is the key. So when looking for fun treats, think about more nutritious and tasty food options. Also consider non-food options that get children active in order to burn the calories they consume.
For food options, think about lower-fat foods that are high in other nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals. Consider items like individual packages of dried fruit or baked pretzels, fruit cups, pudding cups, or trail mix made with whole grains, dried fruit and nuts. Fresh fruit, often called nature’s candy, can also be a real treat, when appropriate to give.
There are lots of enjoyable non-food treats too, like pencils, pencil toppers or erasers, maze games, fun-shaped sticky notes, stickers or tattoos, yo-yos, marbles or whistles.
To encourage children to be more physically active, consider small, inexpensive toys that will get them up and moving. This might be as simple as a small bouncy ball, jump rope, paddle ball, bean bag for hacky-sack, bubbles for chasing and popping, or sidewalk chalk for drawing hopscotch or a four square game. Other treats that encourage activity include reflectors, light sticks or other glow-in-the-dark items for chasing games at night, and shoelace decorations that make walking, dancing and running even more fun.
The possibilities are endless and can be used at Halloween or throughout the year for any festive occasion. Think of games, toys and ideas for party treats that delight and motivate the children in your life to move. Help them choose wisely today for a lifetime of healthy habits.