Halloween is approaching, and sugar is everywhere. Grocery store aisles are overflowing with candy, parents bring cupcakes and cookies to school parties and baskets will soon fill with the spoils of trick-or-treating. This all presents a problem for parents concerned about the health of their children. According to government officials, childhood obesity rates in Canada have almost tripled in the last 30 years, partially due to excessive sugar consumption. This Halloween, swap out the traditional chocolate bars and gummies for these healthy alternatives:

Dark chocolate
Research from Norfolk found people who snack on chocolate are less likely to suffer from heart disease. The study didn't differentiate between various types, but as Harvard Health Publications pointed out, dark chocolate is a low-fat, low-sugar alternative to milk or white chocolate. 

Dark chocolate is more bitter than the alternatives, so picky eaters might turn their nose up . Try mixing in different varieties, like dark chocolate with chilies, rice crisps, potato chip pieces or raspberry filling.

Sugar-free gum
Like dark chocolate, sugar-free gum is a healthier alternative to a childhood favourite. Kids get all the benefits blowing and popping gum without the potential for cavities. In fact, Health Canada declared sugarless gum helps reduce the risk of cavities, tooth decay and other oral issues. The gum stimulates saliva production which washes away some of the bacteria left on teeth.

Dentists recommend sugar-free gum for healthy teeth.Health officials recommend sugar-free gum for healthy teeth.

Candy apple slices
Candy apples are a fall favourite and a good way to sneak some fruit into a bag of candy. Instead of handing out full-sized apples to every child that knocks - a feat that would no doubt require an entire orchard - cut the fruit into slices and coat each piece instead. If you want to go the extra mile, Everyday Health suggested coating the apples in dark chocolate instead of the traditional candy or caramel. This will bring your treats some heart-healthy antioxidants. You can also add extra treats on top like graham cracker crumbs, sprinkles or mini marshmallows.

Homemade trail mix
Combine chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, nuts, pretzel sticks, dried berries or any other tiny treat you can think of for a delicious homemade trail mix. Your options are endless - you can use candied almonds or slivers, raisins or dried cranberries, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. The best part about trail mix is you can customize it to your children's tastes and allergies. If someone in your neighbourhood is allergic to peanuts, switch the peanut butter chips for white chocolate.

Instead of giving your neighbourhood kids edible treats, hand out tiny Halloween-themed toys. Spider rings, plastic frogs fake eyeballs, temporary tattoos, stickers and glow sticks are all inexpensive, fun alternatives to candy that kids find just as delightful. A study from Yale found when given a choice between the two, children were equally likely to pick toys as they were candy.