Real Food Tips: 20 Ways to do Halloween without candy!

Whoever said you “had” to hand out candy on Halloween anyway? Trust me kids will be getting PLENTY of candy this month regardless so it wouldn’t hurt, and it actually might help, if you break up the monotony by doing something a little different. I personally kind of like to be different (let’s just call it “unique”) anyway. And let’s face it…bags of candy aren’t exactly cheap either so some of these alternatives might cost the same or even less for your Halloween night handout. Most of them will last a lot longer, too!

Also, a quick thanks to all the wonderful facebook fans who helped me come up with these great ideas!

Creative alternatives for trick-or-treaters…

  1. Packs of mini play dough containers

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  2. A mix of inexpensive Halloween-themed toys from a place like Michael’s, Oriental Trading, Target or Wal-Mart (pictured)
  3. Miniature bottles of water or all natural juice boxes (love this idea because we are always thirsty when we’re out and about trick-or-treating)
  4. Spooky collection of Halloween “frights” like plastic eyeballs, rubbery rats, and fake fingers
  5. Light-up glow sticks, which can usually be found in a pack of 15 at Michael’s or Target for only $1 (that’s what we’re going to give out this year!)
  6. Halloween pencils and mini activity books or pads of paper
  7. Toothbrushes (big kids might turn their noses up to this, but my children happen to think new toothbrushes are fun)
  8. Mini Lara Bars and/or packs of raisins
  9. Inexpensive little books from thrift stores, garage sales, or the dollar store
  10. “Birthday landfill” as one facebook fan called it, which is basically a collection of all the little gizmos and gadgets from party favor bags throughout the year
  11. Temporary tattoos and/or stickers
  12. Small bags of microwavable popcorn
  13. Fruit leathers (made with 100% fruit)
  14. Homemade crayons made in muffin tins in the oven (google it)
  15. Local apples…they are currently in season so why not!

What do to with all the candy that your kid does get…

  1. Allow them to keep a few pieces and then trade in the rest to you for a quarter each…then off to the toy store or dollar store! (This method can be used all month-long or even all year-long)
  2. Keep it simple – just offer your kids the choice to trade in all their candy for a trip to the toy store or for something else they’ve been really wanting like a trip to Monkey Joe’s
  3. Leave the bulk of the candy out on the front porch for the mysterious “Halloween Witch” who will miraculously leave a non-candy surprise (like a game or a toy) in its place…tell them the “better” the candy the “better” the surprise!
  4. Ship your candy off to the troops
  5. Or combine the best of both worlds – find a local dentist who participates in a Halloween Candy Buy Back Program because they will give you something in exchange for the candy and also ship it off to the troops for you!

If you have any other ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comments below.

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139 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 20 Ways to do Halloween without candy!”

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  1. great ideas!

    Here in the Salem, MA area, where candy overflows, some moms I know also use the “Switch Witch”. You have a night enjoying candy and then leave all the leftovers by the front door (inside). In the morning, the witch will have come and switched all your candy for a toy!

  2. I proposed to my kids to not trick or treat at all. All of that candy that is so horrible for you… Not good. I would limit the candy to my kids, but then my husband would sit and eat most of it! Yuck. Instead, we will be having a Halloween Party with family and friends. There will be costumes, crafts, games, hayrides, haunted forest walk and HOMEMADE healthy “treats.” This is the first year I am excited for Halloween! My kids are so excited for the party that they aren’t giving trick or treating a thought. Win for this mama.

  3. When my kids were little, their dentist used to have someone dress up as the toothfairy a couple days after Halloween and buy the Halloween candy from the kids. My kids would eat a little for those two days and then look forward to getting money from the toothfairy and we would go buy a little toy for them with that money (plus what I had to kick in). Save us all calories and junk in our bodies. :)

  4. We do hand out candy, with a mix of pencils, skull rings and cheap Halloween toys I bought the year before when Target put them on sale. I do let the kids pick out about 20 pieces of candy (more than enough, they lose interest after two weeks) and either send the rest out to my husband’s office or find a dentist in the Buy Back Program. When I lived in CA a local dentist had a triple threat: he would buy back the candy, send it to the troops AND give a donation to the school!

  5. It is really sad to be sending GMO candy to others, when we are against eating it ourselves. Sugar is bad for us all, even in small quantities.

    1. I feel like I can’t win when it comes to Halloween. It’s either junky candy or junky plastic stuff that gets added to the landfill.

    1. We don’t eat any of the candy (special medical diet). But my daughter still wants to trick or treat. When she was younger, we did a trade in for a special toy. Once she got to be 7 years old, and money became more interesting to her, she wanted to trade in for money instead. 1 pound of candy = $1.00.

      You could do something similar, whatever your budget will allow and taking into consideration the age of your kids.

  6. The night of Hallowe’en, they are allowed to have a few treats (usually not more than about 3 of them) and then my husband and I go through them as our son is allergic to peanuts. Once the bags have been checked, the kids go and pick out all the treats they would like to keep that will fit into a small baggie; the rest go to work with myself and my husband to share with colleagues. Working with grad students, the candies go FAST!

  7. Love this list. Last year, my preschooler got two toothbrushes in his bag from one of the other kids at school (whose mom is a dental hygienist). He was so excited about those! He said it was his favorite treat in the whole bag!

  8. I love this whole blog and your new cookbook….and this post. However I highly disagree with handing out bags of microwave popcorn. I like the fact that it’s not candy but there are so many horrible chemicals lined in that bag, I would feel horrible giving that to anyone, let alone a child.

  9. After being hit with several articles of “don’t ruin Halloween” I started feeling guilty and went looking for a safe place to defend my non candy tradition. First off I’m type 2 diabetic. The last thing I need is a bucket of candy around my house. Secondly, I have real world experience because I’ve been doing this for years. Sorry CJ Mini microwave popcorn is the big winner here. Even on the years when I offered real sugar alternatives I have no trouble giving away popcorn. I heard a group of tweens planing their Halloween once. I went something like this: We will go to this house for popcorn and this house for sodas then my house for movies. Perfect, I loved it that I could be part of their non pranking plan. About some of the other ideas. I’ve done the toys. Mostly it was hard to pick what would be popular that year. Pencils actually worked, but it is a special case here. The grade school gestapo had a strict rule about mechanical pencils. she would actually walk into class rooms and take them straight from the kids hands. (serious control issues) So as part of my rebellion issues I offered these to kids . They are quiet (clickless) and look a lot like a wooden pencil My kids had successfully used them in the prison state, so I knew the kids could get away with them. I’d buy a 24 pack every year and always ran out. (I use a choice bowl, pick what you like). Most of the pillowcase grade trick or treaters in my town hit the big neighborhood parties, so most of my treaters are local and know me. Having said that I do have regulars who return every year for the popcorn.

    In defense of the popcorn Younger kids love it because it is a big sized treat for them. it is also unusual for them to get their own bag at home so this is cool. Older kids often mention it is a great save it for later treat. Parents don’t seem to object. The one worry I have left is the toddlers and pretoddlers. I’m pretty sure this snack is not age appropriate so I always have something for the tinys.

    As for those years when I have done candy (and this is not going to be one) I got a hint years ago that I have followed much to my own children’s chagrin. At a predetermined time the last kid to knock on the door gets whatever is left in the bowl. Open your bag I’m dumping this bowl. I figure it’s a good hint to them that it might be time to head home.


  10. I too do not like the idea of passing out candy but looking for alternatives. Years ago I did the cheap toy thing but now that I have been a mom for a decade I realized awhile back we all don’t want to deal with the cheap toys cluttering our home. Don’t support company’s that sell cheap junk just so it can eventually go to the landfill. Plus these toys are made of pour quality of plastic is probably bad for our health and definitely bad for the environment. Another site suggested handing out twenty cents (the cost of a halloween small candy bar). I like that idea because I think the kids will be happy with it and it is something that doesn’t end up in the landfill.

  11. You could also donate the candy to recovery centers for recovering alcohol/drug addicts. The sugar helps curb the addiction.

  12. I watched your tv blurb and love the idea of a “halloween candy fairy” coming and taking away halloween candy and leaving a little gift in return. I think my kids would be excited with this, but I’m having trouble finding the link to the poem. Could you direct me in the right place? Thanks!

  13. My husband gives out glow sticks to the kiddos along with candy he actually cracks them so they are lite when they are walking around. Most parents love the idea and kids love them. We will do this every year now.

  14. When my son was young, one year I did boxes of crayons. My husband thought not handing out candy was no fun! :) I bought them at back-to-school time (RoseArt were $0.10 and Crayola $0.20/box) Not sure how the prices now compare to candy.

  15. For those of you having a conniption about sending the candy to the troops… I doubt it is any worse than the MREs they eat. I doubt the majority are concerned about the health of the candy… And I am pretty sure it is a treat that they look forward to, as it likely reminds them of home… Where they probably used to eat the stuff on a regular basis. Not really a good reason to crucify Lisa Leake… Grow up!

  16. Thanks for your post. I like most of the ideas. I’m sorry to say that I have to agree with CJ though on the popcorn. Also, hard to promote buying stuff from some of the places you mention as the plastic toys are made in China and often break immediately. But again, thanks for the post and you really suggested a lot of alternatives. Best, Monica

  17. Ship GMO candies off to the troops? How unbelievably insane is that suggestion? Like kids, troopers are people too!

    Man, you had me at the Halloween tangerines, but totally lost me here!

  18. I used to be a fan of yours until I read this blog. Why would you suggest #12. Microwave popcorn is GMO corn and not to mention the other toxic ingredients. But #19 and #20 pushed me off the edge. Do you think that something that is unhealthy should be given to our troops? And readers have said donate the candy to charities. I am appalled. If the candy is not good for our children it is not good for human consumption period. Shame on you.

  19. Our local YMCA partners with two local businesses to sponsor trick or treating for healthy snacks along a short family hike on the Saturday morning before Halloween. There is face painting and pumpkin decorating etc. at the end. I haven’t gone before due to the age of my kids and my physical fitness, but it sounds like a great tradition and I’m sure it could be replicated in other cities, too–our gymnastics center/indoor playground throws Halloween parties too–one for a younger age group and one for older kids. I think going to something like that and minimizing regular trick or treating is a good idea to make Halloween special without getting a year’s supply of sugar. Also, one man near us shows the Charlie Brown Halloween movie on a projector outside(shining on his garage door) and gives out popcorn from his movie-theater style machine. Watch that with popcorn, get a few pieces of candy, and my little ones are pretty darn content.

  20. Love the glow stick idea. I let the kids eat some, then I “buy” the candy either for money or a “free day” from chores. Those are rare and so are exciting to get. Then I save the candy for our annual Gingerbread House party with friends.