Healthier Halloween

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I know, you’re afraid of being “that house.”

…the house that kids avoid or, even worse, other adults scoff at because of what you give out on Halloween. While I was raised to be grateful for every gift, I’d be lying if I told you that I never complained about getting a bag of pretzels or a spider ring.

I remember coming home from trick-or-treating at 9 p.m. and emptying the fruits of my labor – which definitely wasn’t fruit – on the family-room floor for my parents to inspect. Items that weren’t sealed by a manufacturer went in the garbage. That’s why this post focuses on treats that you can make for Halloween parties or even for dinner, before you send the kids out the door for trick-or-treating. This post also addresses trick-or-treat night by providing suggestions for packaged alternatives to candy.

Halloween Party Food

There are a lot of Pinterest-y Halloween ideas haunting the Internet. However, in keeping with my style – and understanding all too well that most of us are over-booked and over-stimulated with life – I strive to reduce the barriers of eating healthy by making food that tastes good and is inexpensive, quick and easy. Below you’ll find recipes for party food, which also creates a balanced meal, that is centered around macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein). I hope you all of these recipes and ides to be spook-tacular!

HealthierHalloween1

This is what happens when I play with my food.

Fat: Veggie Witch Fingers

Celery with creamy peanut butter and raisins as fingernails (about 95 calories per serving of peanut butter)

Serves about 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag or two bunches of celery or about 15 sticks
  • 4 Tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • About 15 raisins (based on number of celery sticks)

Instructions:

  1. Spread 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter inside the “trench” of the celery stick.
  2. Place a raisin toward the tip of the celery stick, on the peanut butter to resemble a fingernail.

Lighter option: Bell pepper slices with hummus and almonds as fingernails (about 35 calories per teaspoon of hummus)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 green bell peppers, cut into 12 thin strips
  • 6 Tbsp. hummus
  • 12 almond slices

Instructions:

  1. Spread ½ Tbsp. of hummus on the interior side of the bell pepper strip.
  2. Place an almond slice toward the tip of the bell pepper strip, on the hummus to resemble a fingernail.

Another idea: Carrots sticking out of “monster mash” (guacamole)

Carbohydrates: Jack-o-Lantern Stuffed PeppersHealthierHalloween06

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Six orange bell peppers
  • 1-13.25 oz. box of whole grain pasta of your choice
  • 24 oz. homemade pasta sauce

Note: There are a lot of quick and easy recipes out there. If you must use store-bought sauce, watch out for sodium and sugar. The recommended daily allotment for sodium for most children is about 1,500 milligrams. The recommended daily allotment for sugar for children ages 1-4 is no more than 25 grams, and the recommended daily allotment for children and adults age 4 and older is no more than 50 grams. A serving of red sauces is typically ½ cup, but always check that first when comparing labels.

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to instructions on package
  2. Toss cooked pasta with pasta sauce, side aside
  3. While keeping the top in tact, cut horizontal a line across top of bell peppers in order to remove the seeds, set top aside
  4. Carve bell peppers like a jack-o-lantern
  5. Blanche bell peppers by placing in boiling water no longer than two minutes
  6. Put pasta inside bell peppers
  7. If unable to serve right away, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and cook stuffed peppers for 5-10 minutes before serving

Protein: Turkey Meatball EyeballsHealthierHalloween07

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • ½ medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.25 lb. raw 93% lean/7% fat ground turkey breast
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 24 oz. homemade pasta sauce
  • 20 black olive slices

Note: There are a lot of quick and easy recipes out there. If you must use store-bought sauce, watch out for sodium and sugar. The recommended daily allotment for sodium for most children is about 1,500 milligrams. The recommended daily allotment for sugar for children ages 1-4 is no more than 25 grams, and the recommended daily allotment for children and adults age 4 and older is no more than 50 grams. A serving of red sauces is typically ½ cup, but always check that first when comparing labels.

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat
  2. Add onion and garlic and stir for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent
  3. Combine onion/garlic mixture, turkey, egg, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, oregano and ground black pepper in a bowl; mix, cover and refrigerate for an hour
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  5. Pour pasta sauce into baking dish
  6. Form mixture into about 30 1-inch balls; place in baking dish; place olive slices on top of meatballs
  7. Bake for about 30-45 minutes

Another idea: Deviled egg/guacamole eyeballs (with olives)

Trick-or-Treat Suggestions (and all of your questions answered)

Some healthier alternatives to Halloween candy are as follows:

  • Boxes of raisins – ex. 0.5 oz. boxes of Sun-Maid Natural California Raisins Mini-Snacks
  • 4 oz. containers of unsweetened applesauce
  • Granola/protein bars – ex. 1.27 oz. CLIF Kid Organic ZBar
  • Packs of natural fruit snacks – ex. 0.8 oz. pouches of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
  • Alternative: Non-food items – Dollar Tree, Michael’s, dollar section at Target

So, how much does all of this cost?

Item Price Per Unit

(Price of Item Divided by Number of Individual Servings)

Sun-Maid Natural California Raisins Mini-Snacks $1.93 / 12 = ~$0.16
4 oz. containers of unsweetened applesauce $1.79 / 6 = ~$0.30
1.27 oz. CLIF Kid Organic ZBar $4 / 6 = ~$0.67
0.8 oz. pouches of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks $3.99 / 5 = ~$0.80

And how does this compare to the standard Halloween candy?

I surveyed jumbo bags of popular candy that’s sold in the Halloween section of a popular mid-scale chain grocery store. This list represents bulk pricing to give the most conservative analysis and doesn’t include the many combination packs available.

Item Price Per Unit

(Price of Item Divided by Number of Individual Servings)

Hershey’s Kisses $11.99 / 252 = ~$0.05 (but no one ever takes or eats just one!)
Hershey’s Miniatures $11.99 / 130 = ~$0.09 (but no one ever takes or eats just one!)
Reese’s Miniatures $11.99 / 130 = ~$0.09 (but no one ever takes or eats just one!)
Skittles $9.99 / 90 – ~$0.11
Hershey’s Miniatures – Milk Chocolate $6.99 / 45 = ~$0.16 (but no one ever takes or eats just one!)
Three Musketeers $6.79 / 42 = ~$0.16
Kit Kat $6.99 / 42 = ~$0.17
Hershey’s Miniatures – Cookies ‘n’ Cream $6.99 / 39 = ~$0.18
Snickers $6.79 / 38 = ~$0.18
Reese’s Pumpkins $6.39 / 32 = ~$0.20
M&M’s $11.99 / 60 or $9.99 / 50 = ~$0.20
Almond Joy $6.99 / 34 = ~$0.21

I talk and write a lot about the misconception that healthy food is that is expensive. Based on serving size of the popular bulk-priced items above, the only item that is less expensive than all of the healthier options is Skittles.

While some of the healthier options are quite a bit more expensive than the candy, it’s important to remember that trick-or-treat is elective. You’re spending the money on something extraneous, so why not do it right and invest in the health of our kids or not do it at all? If that question got you thinking, keep reading.

Healthier Halloween Challenge

I’m not suggesting that we all go out and buy Skittles or tell kids to take only one Hershey’s Kiss, Hershey’s Miniature or Reese’s Miniature. I’m asking you to participate in my Healthier Halloween Challenge by taking the following tips into consideration:

Tips for giving out candy:

  • Replace at least ONE bag of candy with one of the healthier alternatives I suggested above.
  • Hand out the candy rather than allow kids to pick from the bowl. This will help to justify spending a little more money on more expensive items per piece and, more importantly, if handing out candy, it’ll cut down on the amount that kids will take home.
  • Forego food items altogether, and give out small toys instead of treats.

Tips for parents of kids who’ve received candy:

  • Allow your kids to swap their treats for a non-food item.
  • Use treats for activities. I read about one woman whose children save their Halloween candy for building a gingerbread house during the holidays. This strategy allows them to enjoy the candy without consuming it.

So what’s wrong with one day of unhealthy eating?

Well, it’s the fact that it isn’t just one day of unhealthy eating. Looking back on my childhood, my Halloween candy stash provided me with WEEKS of abysmal lunch-time and after-school snacks. And the candy stash only got bigger every year. Once the jack-o-lantern pail got too small, I graduated to a pillowcase, and, once that pillowcase started busting at the seams, I graduated to a king-sized pillow case. Yes, I turned out to be a healthy adult (after making big lifestyle change), but to think that I spent many of my developmental years on a sugar high is more frightening than the scariest Halloween costume.

Now, as an adult who had to learn the hard way in my mid-20’s how to eat healthfully, I have so much respect for the neighbors who gave out pretzels and spider rings. Yes, it was just a few houses in a hundred that I (and many other kids) would visit during the course of that evening…but those few houses may have provided one healthy snack to a kid who, otherwise, would be eating the ubiquitous Snickers bar when he or she needs something nutritious to fuel them in completing school work and activities. Those few houses may have started a ripple effect across the neighborhood. That’s a movement.

Why not join the movement and be “that house”?!

charm

2 thoughts on “Healthier Halloween

  1. I think these are good suggestions. However, I still think that if parents ration out their kids’ candy a few small treats per day can be part of a healthy lifestyle (provided they are eating nutritious meals as the bulk of their diets). I remember my Halloween candy lasting til Easter, haha, so I at least definitely wasn’t binging on it. I can’t help think of the key word being “treat” so hopefully it’s something special to contrast with the nutritious meals and snacks of everyday life. On that front, what about dark chocolate minis (or even chocolate covered raisins) as something healthier and still treat-like)?

  2. I think these are good suggestions. However, I still think that if parents ration out their kids’ candy a few small treats per day can be part of a healthy lifestyle (provided they are eating nutritious meals as the bulk of their diets). I remember my Halloween candy lasting til Easter, haha, so I at least definitely wasn’t binging on it. I can’t help think of the key word being “treat” so hopefully it’s something special to contrast with the nutritious meals and snacks of everyday life. On that front, what about dark chocolate minis (or even chocolate covered raisins) as something healthier and still treat-like)?

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