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Hints For a Healthier Halloween

Mom and Daughter

Yuri Arcurs/ Shutterstock

If it were only at Halloween, we wouldn't be concerned about the candy. But it's not just at Halloween. It's candy and other treats all too often -- breakfast candy (sugary cereals), liquid candy (soda), and fruit candies at lunch (fruit snacks/gummies/roll-ups).

Celebrating Halloween healthfully isn't about giving up all the treats. It's about bringing them into balance, especially since kids often have multiple celebrations: at school, at friends' houses, at after card, and in the community. And, of course, there's trick-or-treating.

There's more to Halloween than candy. There's dressing up, having fun with friends, playing games, and doing crafts. With so many celebrations throughout the year, it's important to enjoy each one without going overboard.

Halloween Parties

Savor the flavor

At parties, serve no more than one sugary/higher-fat item. Provide mostly healthier party snacks and non-food goodies.

BOOgy down!

Instead of a sit-down and eat party, get up and get moving with the following activities: ghost sack races, costume parades, pin the nose on the witch, and bobbing for apples (a game that includes a healthy snack).

Keep them spellbound

Shift children's focus away from candy to: reading and writing Halloween stories, making slime (see recipe at end), making masks out of paper plates or bats out of egg cartons, acting out short plays, running a haunted house for other classes and learning about Halloween history.

Make good food look frightfully delicious!

Use Halloween-themed cookie cutters to make sandwiches or fruit more interesting. Decorate the room, serve food with creepy plates, napkins, cups or straws, and design and fill treat bags with healthier snack foods.

Celery and spiders

My Lit'l Eye

  • Water
  • Apple cider
  • Witch's Brew (see recipe on next page)
  • Apples* (with caramel or yogurt dip, or sliced and let kids top with spooky sprinkles)
  • Carrot sticks* and low-fat dip
  • Dried apricots*
  • Grapes*
  • Oranges cut into wedges
  • Light or low-fat popcorn*
  • Whole wheat Fig Newtons
  • Graham crackers with pumpkin dip (see recipe on next page)
  • Pumpkin muffins (see recipe on next page)
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Snack cups of canned peaches or mandarin oranges

*Due to risk of choking, avoid giving these to kids under age 4.

Healthier Trick-or-Treating Giveaways

For younger kids, try small toys like:

  • Temporary tattoos or stickers
  • Small plastic spiders, ghosts, or skeletons
  • Super bouncy balls
  • Halloween-themed pencils, erasers, or pencil toppers
  • Spooky plastic rings or false teeth
  • Bracelets or hair accessories

Healthier Food Options:

  • Individual packages of raisins or other dried fruit
  • 100% fruit leathers
  • 100% juice boxes
  • Small water bottles
  • Sugar-free gum

For candy, if you must, try:

  • Gum
  • Fruit-flavored snacks/rollups/gummies
  • Small lollypops (they last longer)
  • Fat-free or low-fat candy like Twizzlers, Skittles, York Peppermint Patties, or Junior Mints
  • Only giving out one fun-sized candy per child (whole handfuls reinforce overindulgence)

Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Muffins

Margoe Edwards/ Shutterstock

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or half whole wheat and half all purpose flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, and then add vegetable oil, milk and pumpkin. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes (don't over mix). Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds of the way full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins (1 muffin per serving)

Calories: 125

Total Sugar: 10g

Fat: 3.5g

Saturated Fat: 0.5g

Sodium: 220mg

Calcium: 50mg

Witch's Brew

Ingredients:

  • 1 24 oz. bottle cranberry 100% juice blend
  • 1 can frozen orange juice
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider
  • Grenadine

Mix first three ingredients together in a cauldron (or punch bowl) and serve in clear plastic cups, with Grenadine "blood" dripping down the inside of the cup!

For added fun, float funny face ice cubes in the brew: Half-fill and freeze ice tray (or muffin cups) with water, garnish each cube with blueberry eyes and a mandarin orange smile, and then fill rest with water and freeze again.

Pumpkin Dip

(from the Dannon Institute)

Mix the following ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Dip in with graham crackers.

Makes 3 servings (approximately 1/3 cup per serving)

Calories: 70

Total Sugar: 9.5g

Fat: 1g

Saturated Fat: 1g

Sodium: 55mg

Calcium: 130mg

Slime

(For playing, not eating)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Food coloring

Boil 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Add cornstarch while stirring. After that is mixed well, add food coloring and stir. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Make sure kids play with it on a plastic covered surface.

 

Originally featured at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspi.net) and reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.