Halloween is big business: nearly $6 billion annually in the United States alone. Of the more than 43 million American children ages 3 to 12, nine out of 10 will go trick-or-treating, consuming a whopping 600 million pounds of candy.
The crazy joy of dressing up and running about past bedtime demanding candy from suddenly compliant adults aside, it' worth noting that our modern celebrations have some significant downsides on the health of children and the health of the planet.
More than one-third of America' children are overweight, with more than 17 percent of them considered obese. One in three children born today will get diabetes, and 2 million children suffer from high blood pressure. This adds up to a generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
In addition to the added calories and sugar (and cavity promotion), conventional candy can contain any of 6,000 chemicals used in the manufacturing of processed foods, artificial dyes and a variety of synthetic additives that have been linked in studies to risk for cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Conventional cocoa beans are grown in full sun, so are susceptible to disease and require lots of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
The good news: There' a vibrant national movement afoot to give our Halloween traditions a green and healthy upgrade! Green Halloween, a nonprofit started by engaged mom Corey Colwell-Lipson, is a hub, with lots of resources for parents, kids, schools, and more.
Along with Ecomom.com, Green Halloween has great suggestions on costume exchange swaps, eco-friendly decorations, using reusable bags as treat bags (Chico Bag is a product partner), and hosting eco-friendly Halloween parties at home, school, and beyond.
As for treats, the group suggests thinking treasures instead of candy. “Kids love little trinkets like spinning tops, stickers and collectable cards. Most children especially love gifts from nature like polished rocks, crystals and seashells.” Avoid plastic disposable toys, the website suggests.
Food treats are still very welcome (by kids & their parents). Many natural product retailers now carry an array of healthier options:
- Organic applesauce snack packs
- Individually wrapped organic herbal tea bags (great for tea parties!)
- Boxes of organic raisins and, where available, other organic dried fruits
- Raw or roasted nuts (ask parents before giving out nuts due to allergies)
- 100% honey or agave sticks (not for kids under age 2)
- Crunchy Munchies (individually wrapped pumpkin seed treats)
- Organic juice boxes, or pouches from Honest Kids
- 100% fruit rolls from Stretch Island Fruit or Clif Kids
- Whole food bars such as minis from LaraBar
- Individual packets of nut butter from Justin's Nut Butter or Barney Butter (ask parents first)
- Glee Gum (sustainable gum made from chicle; no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, some of it sugar free)
- Individual packets of fair trade, organic chocolate, such Endangered Species “Bug Bites” or Amazing Grass Chocolate SuperFood
- PB&J mini-bars & freeze-dried yogurt drops from Revolution Foods
- Organic, gluten-free treat-sized crispy rice bars from Nature' Path
- Spooky S’mores Clif Kid' Organic ZBar
- Surf Sweets jelly beans and gummies (a pioneer in organically sweetened, naturally colored candy)