In Our View: Frightful Fun; No Calories

Here are ways to enjoy Halloween without adding to the obesity problem

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This will be our community's first Halloween without Florence Wager, and for lots of folks, trick-or-treating just won't be the same without "Flossie." The longtime civic activist died Aug. 22 at age 84, leaving a legacy built largely on her triumphs as an activist for local parks. But another part of Wager's reputation was her practice of handing out calorie-free treats to all the marauding mendicants who visited her each Halloween night.We hope Flossie's legacy inspires others to break with tradition and consider rewarding trick-or-treaters — a generation with an exploding national obesity problem — with treats other than candy.

The widespread gratitude for your alternative approach on Halloween night likely would include parents. They'll be glad to see you won't be contributing to their kids' unhealthy gluttony. Have you ever tried to get a candy-stuffed ghost to go to bed on Halloween night? Getting the costume off is the easy part. Riding out the kid's sugar high is the real challenge.

Also, you might impress the children with a non-candy strategy. At first, they could recoil at the absence of candy at your house, but if you're creative, the little visitors could rank you high on their list of favorite treat distributors. Wager, for example, used to impress pirates and princesses with wax vampire fangs, bottles of bubbles, neon crazy straws, Matchbox cars, stickers, balloons, coloring books and other surprises.

Think of the glee you could generate in young hearts. And think of the small contribution you'll make to reversing the national obesity epidemic. A Monday post on Time magazine's Health & Family Web page presented some startling statistics. The national obesity rate is triple what it was a generation ago and the number of cavities in children is increasing for the first time in 40 years. That's two strikes against traditional trick-or-treating, we're thinking.

The Time report also cited these numbers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Public Health: The average trick-or-treater will rake in on average 3,500 to 7,000 calories worth of candy. Burning off 7,000 calories would require a 100-pound child to walk for almost 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours.

The website also recommends nutritional treats such as pretzels, apples and dried fruit rolls. And if you want to venture beyond the food treats, consider Flossie's strategy and hand out low-cost trinkets, perhaps temporary tattoos or glow sticks.

Remember, the required vigilance extends beyond just this one ghoulish night. It's important to ration the largess. Set a daily candy limit for your child, and stick to it. Or consider donating excessive amounts of Halloween candy to a local senior citizens home or food pantry.

Finally, here's a unique way to actually make money off your Halloween candy and help our military troops at the same time. The national Operation Gratitude organization has set up the Halloween Candy Buy Back 2012, with more than 1,000 dentists nationwide buying Halloween candy for $1 a pound and shipping it to U.S. troops overseas. Several Clark County dentists are participating. Be sure to call the dentist's office in advance for complete details.

No one expects Halloween to ever diminish as one of America's favorite holidays. Costume and candy makers won't let that happen. But, little by little, we can change a tradition to where it doesn't contribute to the national obesity problem.