Neat treats Halloween: When the kids come knocking Friday night, the trick for parents will be to have the right treats.

October 29, 1997|By Maria Hiaasen | Maria Hiaasen,special to the sun

How do you shop for Halloween treats? Grab a bag of the candy you like, then try not to eat it all before the trick-or-treaters arrive? Look for healthful alternatives to the Snickers bar? Go for the econo-size bag of Safety Pops? Or try to be trendy by handing out something like Gummi Mummies?

Whatever your style, you'll no doubt make your contribution to the $950 million the National Confectioners Association and Chocolate Manufacturers Association expects Americans to spend on Halloween candy this year. Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the McLean, Va.-based trade group, says Halloween reigns as the top holiday for candy sales. (Christmas is a close second with $945 million in candy sales, followed by Easter with $940 million.)

You'd better have plenty of something that's individually wrapped by Friday. The NCA/CMA predicts that 93 percent of American children ages 6 to 11 will go trick-or-treating. Lest you fear a simultaneous sugar high among the nation's youth come Oct. 31, the NCA/CMA research also shows 60 percent of trick-or-treaters ration their candy, rather than eat it all at once.

What's hip Halloween candy? While their parents ate Sweet Tarts and Spree, Smith says today's kids are into Nerds and Mega Warheads, candies with even more intense flavors and ultra-vivid hues. Why?

"Kids seem to like candy that turns their mouths a different color, like blue," Smith says.

Hot novelty candies also tend to have an interactive gimmick, Smith says. Take Mutant Fruitants, by Tootsie Roll, for example. The blue, raspberry- and cherry-flavored shell covers a tangerine- and lime-flavored soft center. It changes colors and textures as kids eat it. Candies that double as rings, necklaces or building blocks are also popular, Smith says, conceding that trick-or-treaters will still bring home plenty of old favorites, like Dum Dum suckers and 3 Musketeers Bars.

Sure, someone's going to be handing out mini boxes of raisins, but what about more tantalizing alternatives to sugary candy?

Pam Frankle, school nurse at Pinewood Elementary School in Baltimore County, appreciates small toys given in lieu of candy.

"I know my son would love being given baseball cards, and my daughter would love getting novelty cards or stickers as something different," she says. "They already know that they will still end up with a bag full of candy."

Frankle says kids also view small packages of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, animal crackers and pretzels as treats.

Even if you try to satiate kids' sweet tooths this Halloween, some choices are more healthful than others, says Barbara Hiebert, chief clinical dietitian at Good Samaritan Hospital. For example, she'd choose a chocolate over a caramel. "Avoid chewy sweets that stick to the teeth," Hiebert says. "Anything that goes down quicker is better."

Hiebert, whose 11-year-old daughter has warned her not to embarrass her by passing out celery sticks at the front door, favors cookies as a less fatty, less chewy, candy alternative. Oreos and Chips Ahoy are each available in trick-or-treat sizes. So are Planters Peanuts and Planters Honey-Roasted Peanuts. Oreos and honey-roasted nuts each scored respectably in our kids' taste test (see box at beginning of article).

No matter how many sweets children bring home, Hiebert recommends setting a limit on how many treats kids can consume at one time. No more than three at once is the rule at her house, she says, adding that her daughter realizes this system leaves her plenty of treats for her lunch box.

Is Halloween a dentist's nightmare? Tracy Bowden, a pediatric dentist in Timonium, would prefer that kids steer clear of sticky candies this week and all year round. He will gladly lecture about sweets, but Bowden's no Grinch when it comes to Halloween. Kids can have candy in moderation, he says. Smart parents will be waiting at home with fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss, and they will make sure that their kids use them after each raid on their trick-or-treat bags.

Sweet talk

How do Halloween treats stack up with kids? To find out, we asked a panel of young experts to taste-test 13 trick-or-treat-size goodies found in local supermarkets and drug stores. Here are the results.

Calories ... ... Fat (grams) ... ... Sugar (grams)

1st Place

Twix Bar ... .. 80 ... .. ... .. 4 ... .. ... .. ... 8

2nd Place (three-way tie)

Oreo cookies .. 100 .. ... .. .. 4 ... .. ... .. ... 8

Nerds ... .. .. 35 ... .. ... .. 0 ... .. ... .. ... 9

Nestle Crunch ..53 ... .. ... .. 2.75 ... ... .. ... 5.5

3rd Place (three-way tie)

M&M's ... .. .. 100 .. .. ... .. 4.5 ... .. ... .... 8

Starburst .. .. 40 ... .. ... .. 1 ... .. ... .. ... 5.5

3 Musketeers .. 70 ... .. ... .. 2 ... .. ... .. ... 11

4th Place

Butterfinger .. 100 .. .. ... .. 3.5 ... .. ... .... 10

5th Place (five-way tie)

Dum Dum suckers 25 ... .. ... .. 0 ... ... .. ... .. 5

Planters Honey-

roated peanuts 75 ... .. ... .. 5.5 ... .. ... .... 3.85

Now & Later ... 50 ... .. ... .. 0 ... .. ... .. ... 12

Smarties ... .. 25 ... .. ... .. 0 ... .. ... .. ... 5

Raisinettes ... 70 ... .. ... .. 2.66 ... ... .. ... 10

Candy is dandy

Apparently, only zombies can resist candy's spell. The National Confectioners Association/Chocolate Manufacturers Association maintains we're eating more candy than ever. Last year, Americans ate a record 26.2 pounds of candy per person, and some 2,000 new candies hit the market.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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