It’s downright scary: Halloween sales reached $6.2 billion on 2010, with 36 million kids between ages 5 and 13 going door-to-door or filling treat bags at neighborhood parties and community events. That’s a monster amount of candy—most of it  filled with fake-food ingredients, sickly-sweet sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and eerie lab-created colors (we’re looking at you, candy corn).

In 2006, Seattle mom Corey Colwell-Lipson started to turn the tables on this unhealthy juggernaut when she took a closer look at her kids’ Halloween trick-or-treat haul. “The other moms and I were shocked that our kids were really excited about the things they got that were not conventional candy,” she recalls, like 100 percent fruit leather, natural gum, and even non-food items like coins and pencils.

This got her thinking: Was neon-colored, HFCS-saturated candy losing its luster as the holy grail of trick or treating?

“I started asking around,” she continues, “and realized that while kids still like candy just as much as they ever have, it’s now everywhere. It used to be a treat, but now it’s common. My nephew’s first-grade teacher keeps a jar of candy on her desk year-round for rewards; it’s at the bank; it’s at the dry cleaner.”

Colwell-Lipson wondered how to capitalize on this candy overload to create a teachable moment. “We had a window of opportunity: If kids were exposed to conventional candy all the time, we could make special choices available on holidays that were healthier, and more sustainable, too.”