For most people, Halloween conjures up two images: costumes and candy. In epic proportions.
The thing is, though…while Halloween can be full of family fun (who doesn’t love adorable kiddos in costumes?), it also is full of tons of stuff we.just.don’t.want. Namely, the sugar and dyes that seem to line the aisles of every store you’re in this time of year. Our stomachs are revolting at just the thought.
There’s good news, though. There are lots of Halloween swaps you can choose to make this Halloween fun and delicious, but without a ton of the junk that makes you want to turn the porchlight off and boycott the whole day. Whether it’s what you’re handing out to the neighborhood kids, providing for the classroom party or just snacking on in your homes, consider better-for-you Halloween swaps as much as you can.
Halloween Swaps: Meet The Switch Witch
You may have heard about this enchantress who visits after the trick-or-treating is done on Halloween. We hear she’s friends with the Elf on the Shelf and Mench on the Bench, and like the Elf and the Mench, what she does in different families varies based on family traditions.
In some families, she comes and takes all the Halloween candy because it’s junk, and she leaves an offering instead, placating the trick-or-treater’s efforts for collection with something that won’t rot their teeth and make them crazy with dye poisoning.
In other families, she comes and takes some candy, leaving basically the favorites of each child but taking the rest so that kids don’t just fall in the habit of eating something just because it’s there (especially since it’s junk).
In other families still, The Switch Witch is highly anticipated, sort of like Santa, because kids willingly give their Halloween loot up to bring something more appealing to them into their lives.
You may be familiar with The Switch Witch story, created by a brother and sister-in-law team from Salem, Massachusetts (of course) to inspire excitement for new Halloween swap traditions. According to the story, every October, young Switch Witches bid their parents, “Adieu!” and go around the world visiting kids. They love visiting homes where they can be offered a lovely time, and in exchange for the visit, they turn Halloween candy into cool gifts–gift certificates to visit places with loved ones or a new backpack or new books.
Switch Witch founders Rob Bouley and Lara Spear Rily partner with Operation Gratitude and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and help educate children and families about the benefits of healthy diets. They share some of the sweets that are collected with troops all over the world.
Really, you can do whatever you like with the Switch Witch–whatever works best for your family is what will work best, but if you’re looking for a fun way to convince your kids to give up the candy, this is an adorable one that will be a family tradition for years to come.
Halloween Candy Buyback, Baby!
What is Halloween Candy Buyback, you ask? Good question! It’s a site that offers you the opportunity to find local businesses (most often, dentists’ offices) who want to take excess Halloween candy from kids and send to troops. (As the spouse of a military member, I have to say that I don’t love them getting tons of junk either, BUT…when you’re stuck in the middle of a conflict in the dessert…coming back to your tent and enjoying a peanut butter cup from home can have its advantages.)
Once you find a local business and register, your kids’ Halloween candy is bought back. Payments are in coupons, toothbrushes, xylitol products and even cash! All you have to do is go to the site, enter your zip code and find the closest scheduled buyback event. It’s a great way for you to get rid of the junk in exchange for better-fo-your kids options, and to help make a difference for others too.
And, don’t despair if you don’t find any local businesses who are participating on the site. Mamas all over our forums tell us that they simply ask their dentist’s office if they have ‘buyback’ programs and not surprisingly, many do! We’re pretty impressed with the generosity of some dentists, in fact, as they must dish out some big bucks (either in cash or other gifts they buy) in the name of preserving our kids’ teeth.
If you can’t find a local business that participates in any sort of buyback program, guess what? You can do it yourself! Yes, our friend Stacy (you may know her as The Crazy Outdoor Mama) told us about the fun Halloween bucks she makes and her kids use to ‘sell their candy.’ They’re specifically made for Halloween, and the best part is that YOU get to decide the value of the Halloween bucks! You can choose the denominations, you can choose the items (or concepts) your kids can buy and you can choose how much various candies are worth. I think it’s a GREAT way to show kids how to start looking at labels and reading the ingredients in the stuff they think is can’t-live-without. And, it’s a great way to value higher-risk candies with their involvement. The printables Stacy created are free and adorable, and really a great way to celebrate Halloween in a healthier and fun way!
Alternative Halloween Options, Anyone?
You know, there’s nothing written in the parenting handbook that says you need to take your kids trick-or-treating. Oh, you didn’t know about the parenting handbook? Spoiler: There isn’t one of those, either.
Seriously, though…for some people, Halloween is just not your jam, and yet, it’s hard to be odd people out when everyone else is doing it up. Instead, think of hosting or sponsoring something that still lets you and your kids take part in the holiday, but in a way that doesn’t load them up on candy and junk (or if it does, it’s while making a difference in the community too.
Call your local nursing home and ask if they’re interested in a few kids coming and trick-or-treating there. The residents of the nursing home most likely haven’t had an adorable little gobblin grace their door in quite a while, and we’re betting they’d really enjoy seeing the smiles on little faces as they handed out some treats. And, your kids will be able to honor and respect the wisdom of the residents, connecting dots in this big world in which we all live.
Or, consider visiting the departments of your local first responders. Halloween is a pretty busy time for police officers and firemen, for various reasons, and they’d probably love to see their community members showing them a little love. Think about it–they probably want to be out with their kiddos just as much as we do with ours, so showing them appreciation by visiting them and bringing them some treats is a great way to show your children how it looks to be thankful while we enjoy ourselves.
Many families who don’t necessarily get all into Halloween plan fun family nights at home. We think you should totally have regular game nights anyway, but if you don’t, Halloween would be a great time to start! Have some of each family member’s favorite treats and a collection of super fun games from which they can choose and snuggle in for a cozy night of family memories. Just don’t forget to turn your porch light off!
And of course, we can’t think of many communities that don’t have tons of community events, trunk or treats, fall festivals and more. If you’re not into going door-to-door, you can often have just as much fun at those events!
Party On With Class Halloween Swaps Treats!
Okay, okay…so you can probably have some family boundaries when it comes to the candy you’ll allow your kids to eat, even on ‘special occasions,’ but often, school parties/sports events, etc…those are a whole different beast, aren’t they? I mean, if I had a nickel for every time my kid came home begging to eat the ring pop….
There ARE things you can do. I’m a firm believer in being the change I want to see, so I make sure that I don’t send in or provide the junk I don’t want my kid to have just because they’re not my kids. I mean, I get it. It’s easy for us to say that parents can parent and if they’ll let their kid eat the boxes of Nerds in mass quantity, why not save a few pennies when I’m sending things in? My kid won’t eat that junk anyway, right?
But why not look for better-for-you alternatives that are reasonably priced and the whole class can enjoy? If we’re really honest—the prices on many of the ‘good candies’ are crazy, and better-for-you alternatives actually end up being more affordable!
Take SmartCakes, for instance. They come in several flavors, and they’re a perfect substitute for cupcakes full of chemicals and dye. The Smart Baking Company takes products past just being gluten-free. They’re made from a proprietary blend of protein, water, vitamins, minerals and fiber and they’re gluten- and wheat-free. They’re low in calories, high in fiber, non-GMO and they’re diabetic-and keto-friendly, so there are really very few kids in the class/on the team who wouldn’t be able to indulge. And, Smartcakes are the first FDA-approved ‘healthy cakes.’ Even cooler? For classroom parties, you can top with coconut milk whipped cream and kids won’t even miss ‘cupcakes’! And before you balk at the price, think about how much you spend on those days-old, ridiculously iced cupcakes in the oversized plastic packaging that traditionally gets sent in to class? Pennies of difference, but SO much better for the kids!
Or, consider Alter Eco® Truffles! Alter Eco® is a chocolate-centric (read: awesome) food company that uses premium ingredients that are made with sustainability in mind to make delicious treats. Their products are organic, Fair Trade Certified, non-GMO, Carbon Neutral Certified and they have plant-based options. They work with small producers in the Global South so they can benefit the co-ops and Sustainability efforts, and they’re in progress to be 100% compostable packaging, as well as investing in large-scale reforestation programs. The company founders are business whizzes with activists’ hearts, and they use their expertise to fight for economic and social justice while they make incredibly delicious treats. They make perfect treats for classroom goodie bags!
Another classroom treat we love is from Back To Nature. Their Peanut Butter and Chocolate Creme Cookies are not only delicious, but they’re festive for the holiday season too! Perfectly costumed already in black and orange, they make a great alternative to other cookies that may have much higher levels of chemicals like glyphosate and dyes, and you can include them for classroom goodie bags and treats. Or, we love the Fudge Mint Cookies as a cleaner alternative for some of those adorable Pinterest ideas! And if you want to appeal to those kiddos with savory taste buds, Back To Nature also has Grab & Go packs that are individually packaged and just perfect for individual classroom treats. All of Back To Nature’s products are non-GMO, Kosher and made without hydrogenated oils or high-fructose syrup and they’re great classroom Halloween Swaps.
More Of The Best Halloween Swaps For Your Little Ghouls And Goblins
It’s hard to find dye-free candy that’s affordable and kids like. One An all-time favorite of kids of all ages are Goetze’s caramels! Goetze is a family owned-brand that started off as a chewing gum factory, but over their 124 years, evovled into caramels and caramel creams. You may know them for their super popular Cow Tales–-caramel sticks with cream inside. Cow Tales and all Goetze creams are nut-free, and made with real cream and wheat flour, but we especially love that they don’t have dyes that so much of today’s Halloween candy fare does.
Speaking of no-dye, traditionally loved candies, if you’ve not checked out Red Vines Made Simple Cherry Twists, you should! They’re non-GMO, made with sugar, wheat flour and radish extract for color, and make me think I’m sitting in front of the big screen every time I eat one! They’re a perfect old-fashioned-in-a-new-world treat, but we have to worn you…they’re on the addictive side. No, you’re eating your fifth one in a row…
Another super fun, better-for-you treat that you can pass out to neighborhood kiddos or send in for classroom parties/sports parties are Smashmallow’s Malloween treats. They’re a great way to be the house everyone wants to come to because each gluten-free, organic marshmallow is wrapped just for those adorable little kiddos (or adults who are sneaking their kids’ goodies!). The bag of 30 is reasonably priced and features Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberries & Cream and Cinnamon Churro. There are no artificial ingredients and they’re made with organic sugar.
Life’s Grapes Vine-Dried Chocolate Dipped Raisins are also delicious better-for-you treats to share with the class or the trick-or-treaters that visit you. They’re made with their very own, signature Selma Pete grapes and drenched in the most amazing dark chocolate you can ever imagine then dusted lightly with rich cocoa powder to give them the perfect hint of sweetness. They’re a delicious addition to Life’s Grapes Classic and Mini Vine-Dried Grapes and we love that they’re way healthier (and we’d argue way more delicious) than most candy that will make it into your kid’s pillowcase!
And don’t forget Smart Sweets! I‘m going to be 100% transparent here. I have a weakness for an unnamed candy that rhymes with Dour Match Lids. When I was pregnant with my son, they were my go-to to get him to move (and I was constantly looking for him to move, as I’d suffered birth trauma before) when no other sugary things seemed to work. Needless to say? They’re his weakness too, and I HATE it, since they’re truly nothing but crap sugar and dyes. BUT–Smart Sweets to the rescue! They have 85% less sugar than other candies (only about 3g sugar per bag) and they’re non-GMO and gluten-free. They’re certified vegan, have no artificial colors, are dairy-, soy-, lactose-, peanut- and nut-free and let me tell you—they’re delicious! Oh, and they are LOADED in fiber, which makes for happier people all-around! You cannot tell their Sour Buddies aren’t that other brand, and they’re great for class or neighborhood Halloween swaps (year-round, too!).
Several of our mamas also recommended Bare Snacks Apple Chips–baked apple in super affordable individual packs (they up fiber intake too) and another mama favorite was gimME Seaweed Snacks. Yes, Seaweed Snacks in individual packs! They’re sustainably made, organic and an incredibly delicious alternative to chips (and candy) when you’re supplying little ones. It’ll be the treat they never saw coming!
Any Halloween swaps are better than none, and sometimes, it takes baby steps to get to where we want to be. But, take the steps nonetheless…you and your kids will be happier (and healthier) for it!
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