This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents' Contributing Food Editor
Grown-ups love their pumpkin spice lattes, why not let kids in on the fun?
A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a Facebook blast to a bunch of my friends asking if their kids enjoyed the flavor of pumpkin. I was surprised to find out that most their children have never tried it, even in pie! Well, I had to fix that because pumpkin adds a wonderful natural sweetness to foods plus extra vitamin A.
Instead of pumpkin pie or even muffins, I wanted to see if they'd like the plethora of pumpkin-flavored products that spouted up in the supermarket this month. So I invited moms and their pumpkin-deprived kids to the park for after-school snacks, which also included maple products and healthier Halloween treats. I kept it informal; kids could try whatever they wanted then they could come back for more in between races down the slide or a round on the swings. By the end of pumpkin playdate, even the picky eaters tasted a lot of foods because they saw friends digging in and there was no pressure. What did they fall for? Plenty—check out their top pumpkin picks plus maple and Halloween faves.
Pumpkin Yogurt: I set out two brands, Noosa (which is a Target exclusive) and Chobani. The kids dug both. Noosa, the milder of the two, comes in an 8-ounce tub so it's best to split between two kids or share with your child (a lot of moms at the playdate did this) or you could scoop out half and save the rest for the next day. Chobani's Pumpkin Spice flavor is a little stronger presumably because it contains more pumpkin (it has 35 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A in 5.3 ounces while Noosa has 8 percent of the Daily Value in 8 ounces.)
Food Should Taste Good Harvest Pumpkin Chips These all-natural tortilla chips are made with pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, boosting their vitamin A to 15 percent of the Daily Value in one ounce, about 12 chips. Moms were surprised that their kids liked these because the packaging and spices seem more grown-up, but I watched kids take these by the handful. We actually ran out!
Nature's Bakery Pumpkin Spice Fig Bar My 12-year-old daughter is no stranger to pumpkin—I made her pumpkin baby food way back when before Sprout, Plum Organics, and Earth's Best had packaged versions—and these mini whole-grain bars were one of her favorite items. A limited edition, they come in a bag of 48 with other flavors so they're perfect for trick or treaters. You can find them everywhere from Whole Foods to Walmart.
Way Better Punkin Cranberry Tortilla Chips "A unique, fun flavor," was how one 11-year-old described these chips, which are made with quinoa, corn, raspberry, cranberry, and, of course, pumpkin. Kids crunched and munched until the bowl was empty.
barkThins Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seeds Any product that describes itself as "snacking chocolate" deserves to be tested. And it didn't disappoint: Thin pieces of dark chocolate were stuffed with crunchy pumpkin seeds. The kids who got to try this liked it for sure, but, honestly, the moms didn't want to share.
365 Everyday Value Maple Gingerbread Sandwich Creme Cookies A Whole Foods exclusive, these 75-calorie sandwich cookies have a pretty strong maple flavor. But that didn't stop the kids. One little guy described them as "pancake cookies." Too cute!
Boom Chicka Pop Organic Maple Sea Salt Popcorn We actually got a sneak peek at this flavor, hitting shelves in early 2015. It will be worth the wait. In the meantime, try another flavor like Sea Salt or White Cheddar.
Annie's Homegrown Halloween Bunny Graham Packs The company's whole-grain chocolate and honey crackers are paired together in mini packages perfect for Trick or Treaters. Kids loved that they were Halloween colors—the honey flavor looks orange thanks to a little annatto extract. Each box contains 24 packs.
Surf Sweets If you're looking for colorful, dye-free Halloween candy that's made in a nut-free facility, it actually exists! The company's "Spooky Spiders," gummy-like candy, were a huge hit as were treat packs of organic fruity bears.
One final tip: When you're shopping for pumpkin or maple-flavored foods, be sure to look at the ingredients' lists. Some products I ran across didn't contain any actual pumpkin or maple syrup or had artificial food dyes to change their color. And that's a little scary.