While Halloween tends to equate to an overindulgence in candy and sugar, there are healthier treat alternatives for parents to consider when planning at-home and in-school celebrations with their little ones. When October 31 rolls around, the key to remember is, just like everything else in life, it’s about balance.
Vegetable trays, crackers and dip can be arranged in the shape of a spider, an owl, or a witch, or kids can nibble on “witches’ broomsticks” made with mozzarella cheese sticks and pretzel sticks. You can also use cookie cutters to cut cheese slices into the shapes of pumpkins, ghosts, cats or bats. Watermelon, oranges or bell peppers can be carved to resemble jack-o-lanterns. Fruit dipped in a small amount of chocolate or frozen “ghosts” on a stick (a banana or a strawberry with white chocolate and candy eyes) are other options.
“My experience has been to keep things in moderation and try to substitute healthier ingredients [like] dark chocolate,” says Brian Kiernan, food service director for Fredericksburg City Public Schools. “Roasted sunflower seeds are wonderful and avoid allergen issues.”
Other healthier classroom party snacks Kiernan suggests include hummus with veggies or flatbread; whole grain sweetbreads made with yogurt and cream cheese icing; no-bake pumpkin energy bites made with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, oats, and other dried fruit, seeds and spices; and crunchy apple sandwiches made with round apple slices, peanut butter and whole grain cereal. Parents can also scour websites such as Pinterest for ideas on prepping treats that are healthy and still fun.
At Halloween time, it’s important to have a plan in place to help alleviate the temptation of eating through an entire stash of candy.
“It’s not about avoiding candy. It’s about knowing how and when to work candy into a lifestyle based on daily healthy behaviors,” points out Nancy Farrell Allen with Farrell Dietitian Services. Farrell Allen is a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She recommends setting limits on the quantity as well as the quality of candy consumed.
“Make healthy snacks accessible,” Farrell Allen adds. “To take the focus off of candy, make sure your child is also well fed in between meals. Teach and model moderation. Don’t give candy more status than it deserves.”
Halloween celebrations don’t just have to be about the sweet treats. Parties can include dancing, costume parades and contests and holiday-themed games and art activities such as pumpkin painting.
“Begin a new family tradition like carving pumpkins and roasting and flavor enhancing the seeds, which are packed with nutrition and fiber,” Farrell Allen suggests. “Make crafts and fall decorations with acorns, leaves, or pinecones to help take the focus away from the candy. And stay active.”