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Food, Fitness and Holidays


Halloween-themed toysAlternative party treats

Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Childhood obesity is more prevalent than ever. This is something to keep in mind throughout the fall and winter holiday season, when parties and snacks abound.


When it's time to give kids a treat, it's easy to think of candy, cake or soda; however, there are fun alternatives available that promote health rather than encourage unhealthy choices.


Frank Booth, MU professor in Biomedical Sciences, says many people incorrectly believe that overeating is the sole cause of obesity.

“Body weight is a balance between caloric intake and expenditure,” Booth said.

When looking for treats for party-goers or trick-or-treaters, think outside the box. Consider nutritious and tasty foods or non-food options, including things that get children up and moving to burn the calories they have consumed.

Individual packages of dried fruit or baked pretzels are easy to distribute. Fresh fruit, often called nature’s candy, can also be a real treat.

Examples of enjoyable non-food treats are stickers, rub-on tattoos, pencils, bookmarks, bottles of bubbles and other trinkets. To encourage children to be more physically active, consider small, inexpensive toys that will get them up and moving. This might be as simple as a bouncy ball, a beanbag for hacky sack, a plastic or foam flier, a jump rope or sidewalk chalk for drawing a hopscotch or foursquare game.

The possibilities for healthy treats and celebrations are endless. These ideas can be used for holiday or birthday parties held in the classroom or at home.

By making smart choices from each food group, selecting nutrient-dense foods and balancing food intake with physical activity, you can be a positive role model and instill in kids a lifetime of healthy habits.


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Last update: Monday, October 31, 2011