Halloween. A day for crazy costumes, chattering children, and unshakable sugar highs. Although most parents bemoan the hefty sacks of candy their kids cart home, few would dream of giving out anything else. This year, consider swapping those mini-Milky Ways for something that won’t contribute quite so much to creating a swirling neighborhoods of sugar-zombies. Along the way, create some spooky snacks that will send your little monsters off with big smiles and full bellies.


The phrase is Trick or Treat. Why not consider Option #1? This year, how about a pack of playing cards with sleight of hand instructions printed off the Internet. Or slip some magic into those plastic pumpkins. Give out magic-themed party favors purchased at a local party store or an online specialist. For example, the Fortune Telling Fish. A red cellophane competitor to the Magic 8 ball, this little squirmer will keep even the youngest tricksters busy. $1.95 for 10. www.magictricks.com


Consider healthier alternatives to candy in individual packs: goldfish crackers, fruit leather, pretzels...Or how about some “treats” that aren’t food at all: stickers, squirt toys, or glow sticks.


Don't send your little tricksters out with empty stomachs! Brew up a few concoctions at home and they'll be less likely to stuff themselves silly once they hit the sidewalk running. Here are some fun treats to have on hand when Halloween rolls around. They're great for a party, or just your own little gathering before it's doorbell ringing time.

Icky Orbs. Boil up some hard boiled eggs. Cut each in half. Add black olives for pupils. Drizzle some diluted red food coloring for bloodshot authenticity. Instant eyeballs!

Ghoulish Ghosts. Put your cookie cutters into action. Cut white cheese (such as Monterey Jack) into half-inch thick rectangles and then use a ghost-shaped cookie cutter to spook things up. Add currants for eyes. And voila! Whether you go for ghosts on a cracker, or put them on a plate, this is a fun way to pack in some protein.

Brazen Broomsticks. Cut a piece of string cheese into three equal parts. Smush each part onto its own pretzel rod (the broomstick). Peel the piece of cheese so it looks stringy (the broom). Hogwarts, ho!

Witches Brew. This soup packs a lot of nutrition into every bowl, but with enough sweetness to keep kids spooning it up. Cut two small pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, and place flesh side down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Once the pumpkin is soft, remove the skin and puree in a food processor with 3 cups of chicken stock, 3/4 c evaporated lowfat milk, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer the concoction on the stove until warm. If you’d like, you can add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl just before serving.

Although most kids will be seriously sugared up by nightfall, it's only one day a year, so it’s hard to spoil the party. These snacks will get kids in the Halloween spirit, and line their tummies with something other than chocolate.