Halloween is the No. 1 holiday for candy sales. Overall, Americans eat almost 25 pounds of candy per capita every year.

The spooky truth about all this sugar? Recent studies looking into the dietary habits of our children show they are consuming more sugar than ever before. Dental decay and childhood obesity are a few real consequences of a diet containing too much sugar.

Before the holiday, plan with your children how the candy cache can be enjoyed.

Children usually have a favorite or two. After sampling a bit, consider freezing candy for future use and storing hard candy in an air-tight container for another day. Incorporating holiday candy as a dessert or occasional treat through several weeks can spread out the candy and the calories, and also extend the holiday mood.

What if some or all of your child’s Halloween candy disappeared after trick-or-treating? Meet the Sugar Fairy — a creation of an imaginative mom. The Sugar Fairy collects candy at night and trades toys or books or money or trips to the library in its place. Gifts from the Sugar Fairy can vary, but always should be something kids want and enjoy. Just have the kids leave the candy on the kitchen table, and the Sugar Fairy visits while everyone is asleep. Children might want to exchange all or part of their Halloween candy for Sugar Fairy surprises, which means less sugar for kids and less headaches for parents.

Many dentists and health-care providers also are jumping on the low-candy bandwagon, buying Halloween candy for cash or trading it for other desirable items such as books or toys.

There isn't any reason why Halloween treats need be high in sugar, calories or fat.

Researchers from Yale University’s Center for Eating and Weight Disorders investigated whether children would choose toys over candy when offered both on Halloween. They observed 284 kids between the ages of 3 and 14. Guess what? The children were just as likely to choose toys as candy, regardless of gender.

Maybe this is the year to step away from the candy aisle and offer some non-candy alternative treats for your Halloween visitors. Here are some tricky ideas to consider: pencils, erasers, stickers, whistles, Mardi Gras beads, temporary tattoos, novelty band-aid bandages, restaurant coupons, small raisin boxes, individual packs of microwave popcorn, small bottles of bubbles, crayons, party-favor rings, plastic spiders, eyeballs, skeletons, etc. Any of these are treats that are apt to please Halloween visitors, without over-doing the sweets. And they’ll last longer than a few sugary bites.

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.