Healthy Halloween

Halloween parties and treats can be fun, festive & yes – even healthy!  Here are some tips and ideas to make your Halloween celebrations healthier this year.

The Healthier Halloween Party. 

The kids are all dressed in their costumes, and excited to play games and eat spooky treats.  But with tons of candy and sugary foods everywhere this time of year, many kids are actually relieved to have some savory & healthy options too.  Alongside the candy & sweets – serving foods with protein and/or fiber – will help to level out the sugar rush & crash.

Some Fun/Healthier Halloween Party Ideas:

Melon Brain from Disney Family Fun.

  • Melon Brain – this “brain” from Disney Family Fun makes an amazing centerpiece for your Halloween celebration, and later you can cut into your “brain,” I bet everyone will want to try a bite.  Disney Family Fun has a bunch of really great ideas for healthy Halloween party foods.
  • Witches fingers- made out of string cheese, and green pepper – they really do look like fingers!  Besides being creepy and fun, having some protein will help to level out kids’ bloodsugar at the party.  You can also make them out of carrots and almond slices too.
  • Apple bites – made out of apples and almond slivers.  They are fun & easy to make and eat – and healthy too!  I think these are fun year-round!
  • Snack O’ Lantern Fruit Cups:  This snack can also be a craft at the party – cut the top off and let the kids scoop the flesh out of oranges (save & chop orange bits and toss with other fruit).  Let the kids draw jack o’ lantern faces on their orange “pumpkins” (parents can cut out the shapes) and then fill with the mixed fruit. They have their very own a Snack O’ Lantern fruit cup!  Great photo opp – of each kid holding their own snack o’ lantern.
  • Fizzy Fruit Sodas with Spider Ice cubes!  Freeze ice cubes with Halloween spider rings in them – each drink gets one!  Its a party favor and a spooky drink!  Instead of serving soda or juice with artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup – put 2 parts apple cider (or fresh citrus juice) and 1 part sparkling water.  Add a little bit of clear Natures Agave nectar if it needs a little sweetening.  Stir and serve with Halloween straws and spider ring ice cubes.
  • 5 a Day Bandz – a fun party favor, 5 a Day Bandz help kids track their fruit & veggie consumption.  Put all the bands on the left wrist in the morning, and move 1 to the right each time you eat a fruit or veggie – shoot for a minimum of 5 on the right wrist by the end of the day!  Each pack comes with a card with tips for incorporating fruits & veggies, and information about how the program works – they are great motivator for picky eaters.
  • Pumpkin Seeds – kids love to munch on roasted pumpkin seeds.  So don’t toss them out after you carve your Jack-O-Lanterns.  Here is a recipe from the Food Network for several kinds of pumpkin seeds – including barbeque flavored!  Rich in minerals and vitamin E.
  • Cheddar and salt & pepper popchips – the black and orange bags are festive Halloween colors, and popchips are a better option than other chips that have artificial colors and trans fats.  My chip ‘rule of thumb’ is – don’t eat the chips that turn your thumbs bright orange (because they probably have artificial colors and other stuff kids don’t need)!

Healthier Treating. 

For anyone who is trying to avoid artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup – Halloween can be a “fright night.”  Many Halloween treats and party foods contain artificial colors, additives, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives, which can wreak havoc on some kids’ mood, behavior, and focus/attention.  Looking for some healthier options to hand out at parties or trick or treat time?

Check out Natural Candy Store – they offer all natural candy that has no trans fats, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives.  They even have options for people on specialty diets like Feingold.  Try their Surf Sweets, Yummy Earth lollipops, Equal Exchange mini dark chocolates, Endangered Species Bug Bites chocolate, they even have some cool bat and pumpkin shaped lollipops, or get a mixed bag with several different kinds!  The Endangered Species Bug Bites chocolate is 100% ethically traded organic cacao, and each one comes with a card inside that features a bug – a picture on one side, and a description on the other.   My kids really like Yummy Earth‘s Organic Vitamin C Pops.

It is all still candy – so it is still best to limit it – but unlike most other Halloween candy, Natural Candy Store’s candy is made without chemicals, artificial colors, trans fats, etc.  It is nice that families who are trying to avoid those things have options.

Halloween Cookies and Cupcakes

Instead of grabbing the pre-made Halloween cookies or cupcakes from the store bakery, which are probably loaded with trans fats, artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup.  Make home-baked pumpkin cookies or cupcakes – or even pumpkin doughnuts – baking is a fun activity, and anything homemade is always better than store-bought, especially if you sneak in some healthy “boosts” (such as flax or chia). If you want to make them fun & festive colors, you can decorate them with natural food colors instead of the artificially colored kind.  Where can you find natural food colors? The Natural Candy Store carries them – they have an assortment of concentrated natural decorating colors to make orange and black icing.

I thought this recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Rachel Ray looked fun, festive, and pretty easy – you can even make them ahead and freeze them!  I am going to make them for my son’s Halloween class party, but I am going to add some ground chia or flax seed to the pies, and replace the confectioners sugar with a 1/2 cup of agave nectar for the frosting.  I am going to make the frosting orange colored using the natural liquid food coloring I got from the Natural Candy Store.

Post Trick or Treat Candy Overload? Find a Halloween Buy – Back Program.

Most kids come back from Trick or Treating with a bucket filled with hundreds of pieces of candy – more than most parents would like them to eat in a year! Not only does it contribute to tooth decay, it is full of empty calories, artificial coloring – all that sugary candy certainly won’t help kids focus in school, or boost their immunity.

But what can you do with it all?  Look for a Halloween Candy Buy-Back program near you.  Many local dentist’s office will take the candy, weigh it, and give you money for each pound of candy you turn in.  What do they do with all that candy?  They send it to the troops overseas.  To find a participating dentist in your area, visit the Halloween Candy Buy Back site.  Or the Switch Witch can come to your house – we let our kids choose 1 piece a day for a few days, and they leave the rest for the Switch Witch, who will trade their candy for a toy.  Or for those budding scientists – why not do some science experiments with the candy – check out these fun Candy Experiments.

I asked some of my friends what they do to make Halloween healthier, and here are some of their useful tips and tricks and some links to cool blogs about healthy Halloween ideas:

  • My Munch Bug says: “For my clients with food allergies, juvenile diabetes or other food related issues (or for families who just want to reduce the amount of junk!), the parents let them enjoy the fun of trick or treating and bring home a big sackful. Then, they let them pick a few treats that meet their dietary restrictions if they want to…then weigh the rest. Each pound is equal to $1 and they sell their loot for a special trip as a family to the toy store. In a perfect world, all the neighbors would give out healthy treats (some do!) but this is a strategy that seems to keep everyone happy.
  • Stacy H says: We let our son choose a few to eat that night – keep 3 pieces for later- and put the rest out for the “Kandy Witch.” We donate the rest to those who send it to soldiers over seas.
  • I loved these Savory Halloween ideas from the Ladies Who Lunch, especially the cheddar cheese ghosts and pumpkin muffins.
  • I liked this blog from Spoonfed: Halloween Treats Don’t Have to be Tricky.  They also turned us onto the Candy Experiments website – thanks Spoonfed!

Article written by Sara Vance, a Clinical Nutritionist in the Encinitas, CA area.

Sara offers nutritional counseling, School Assemblies, kids healthy cooking classes, and more. Sara works with each client to develop an all-natural foods and supplement based approach to optimal health.  Visit ReBalanceLife.com for more information.  Friend Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.

©2011, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Love the spider ring ice cube idea! So festive and lots of fun.

  2. Loralee says:

    I have found candy experiments to be a great way of using up Halloween candy–my kids can do experiments forever, and there’s a lot you can do, even if you just dump piece by piece into a bowl of water, or heating a whole bunch in the oven to see what happens.

    Another idea is to donate extra candy to food banks. I spoke with a food bank representative who suggested letting kids donate their extra candy to a food bank, and choosing some healthy foods to donate as well. That struck me as a good way to teach both generosity and nutrition.

  3. [...] Hosting or heading off to a Halloween party?  For some tips and ideas for a healthier Halloween party, including how to make a melon brain, and apple bites – read Healthy Halloween. [...]

  4. [...] Hosting or heading off to a Halloween party?  For some tips and ideas for a healthier Halloween party, including how to make a melon brain, and apple bites – read Sara’s blog on creating a Healthy Halloween. [...]