- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) - Offer apples to trick-or-treaters and risk having your house get egged _ maybe even by your own kids.

But dentists and dietitians say you can still make Halloween reasonably healthy for little devils and witches without resorting to dracul-onian tactics, like no candy.

“This is such a big adventure for them _ let them have it, obviously with some caveats,” said Dr. Rhea Haugseth, a dentist in Marietta, Ga., who’s president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

There are tricks for keeping Halloween fun without risking cavities and extra pounds, like handing out dark chocolate instead of chewy candies or even bribing kids with a toy in exchange for the Halloween loot. Some studies have suggested dark chocolate is good for the heart, and chewy candies stick to the teeth.

Just don’t go overboard on restrictions, says Cole Robbins, a Chicago 12-year-old and Halloween veteran.

Halloween is the one day of the year where we kids just kind of break out and overload on candy,” he said.

To help prevent that kind of gorging, try to give children a healthy, filling meal before trick-or-treating, says Bethany Thayer, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association who works at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Procrastinators, take heart. Thayer also recommends waiting until Halloween day before buying candy, so no one is tempted to indulge beforehand.

“I know people who have to go back to the store because they’ve completely gone through their candy” before Halloween, she said.

Haugseth suggests avoiding cavity-promoting treats like caramels that stick to the teeth, or lollipops that bathe teeth in a long sugary bath.

Also, having kids brush their teeth before trick-or-treating helps reduce plaque and bacteria, which interact with sugar to produce tooth-decaying acid, Haugseth said. Kids should also brush right after eating candy, she said.

Ronni Litz Julien, a Miami nutritionist whose patients include overweight and obese kids, says another trick for parents is to ask kids not to dip into their loot bags until they bring it all home. That’s for safety, so parents can toss any suspicious-looking candy, but it also can prevent an “eating frenzy.”

She suggests parents help sort through the loot, have kids select their 10 favorite pieces, and give the rest away. Offer the choice of eating all 10 pieces at once, or over 10 days. That gives them a sense of control, without feeling shortchanged, she said.

“You can’t deprive them. It’s Halloween, for God’s sake,” she said.

President Barack Obama joked this week on “The Tonight Show” that he’d warned his health-promoting wife that the White House would get egged if she gave trick-or-treaters fresh fruit and raisins instead of candy. During festivities on Saturday, the Obamas will hand out White House M&Ms, cookies and dried fruit as they did the past two years.

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