A Healthy Halloween
As the days grow shorter and the air fills with the crisp scent of fallen leaves, children and adults alike are busy making their preparations for the spookiest night of the year. Millions of pumpkins are being carved, “The Monster Mash” and “The Time Warp” are being queued up on millions of playlists, and the final touches are being put on millions of costumes. But for all the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins that roam on Halloween night, the scariest thing of all may be the hundreds of millions of pounds of candy that Americans will consume. The average American will eat almost three and a half pounds of candy on Halloween, containing astoundingly large quantities of sugar and fat. Just 60 pieces of “fun-size” Halloween candy, a fairly small trick-or-treating haul if my childhood was any indication, comes to a whopping 4,800 calories — and that’s not even counting all the cookies, sugary drinks, pizza, and other rich foods most of us will eat on All Hallow’s Eve.
Some people have been trying to do something about this for years. Most of us will remember this Halloween scene from our childhoods: Knocking on a door, shouting “Trick or Treat!”, and being handed something like a box of raisins, a bag of pennies, or worst of all, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste. While such efforts to instill healthy habits are laudable, especially in light of the ongoing obesity and diabetes epidemics, most kids will go out of their way to avoid these houses — or, perhaps, visit them later with rolls of toilet paper and cartons of rotten eggs. Let’s face it: Neither kids or adults will probably ever crave quinoa and kale on Halloween, so what else can be done to help prevent the holiday from turning into The Night of the Popping Buttons? Here are ten tasty treats that will satisfy without packing scores of calories into every bite.
BOBBING FOR APPLES
Many items on this list will include apples, but this traditional Halloween game is still one of the best ways to make healthy eating fun and festive (though you’ll probably want to find another game for very small children to play). Float sweet, flavorful varieties like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp in a large basin and let the fun begin! If you are certain that a basin of cold water and a bunch of excited kids during the beginning of cold and flu season won’t mix, hang the apples on strings instead — no hands allowed!
HOT MULLED CIDER
Another traditional treat perfect for chilly October nights. Serve it up in mugs with cinnamon sticks, or allow guests to serve themselves from a steaming hot “witch’s cauldron” on the stovetop. Use fresh-pressed, unpasteurized cider (if available) for the most healthful brew. Adults may wish to add their favorite spirits, but beware: Those who commune with spirits may become possessed.
Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, pomegranates have a powerfully sweet and tart flavor that can stand up against any fruit-flavored candy, and their blood-red color and otherworldly interior structure make them a perfect treat for your fright night. Carve jack-o-lantern faces into their leathery outer rinds to add a festive touch!
With just three healthy ingredients and no cooking required, these adorable little snacks are quick and easy to make: Cut string cheese into thirds, then use a knife or scissors to fray one end of each piece. Push a mini pretzel stick into the unfrayed ends, and garnish them by tying a small length of chive around the string cheese. These savory snacks will fly off the plate as if by magic.
CANDY CORN PARFAIT
Here’s another simple treat that can be prepared in minutes. Layer pineapple and mandarin oranges (or your other favorite yellow and orange fruits) in clear parfait cups and top them with plain or vanilla yogurt. Garnish with a single piece of candy corn on top for the full effect.
No Halloween spread would be complete without something that looks like severed body parts! Cut peeled apples into finger-sized slices, carving wrinkled knuckles along their length. Add “fingernails” by sticking sliced almonds to the ends with a dab of honey or caramel, and finish the effect by dipping the other ends in strawberry or raspberry jam.
FROZEN BOO-NANA GHOSTS
Legend has it that a ghost’s presence can be felt by an unusual chill in the room, and these tasty white chocolate-dipped spooks are no exception. Cut peeled bananas in half, place them on popsicle sticks and freeze them until firm — for at least one hour. When ready to serve, dip them in a melted mixture of eight parts white chocolate to one part vegetable oil. Quickly apply raisins, nuts, O-shaped cereal pieces, or semi-sweet chocolate chips to give spectral faces to these creamy creations.
In addition to being delicious, guacamole‘s bright green color makes it ideally suited for Halloween. Pair them with blue corn tortilla chips for a particularly frightful color combination. Get creative and garnish your guac with olives, sliced onions, and tomatoes to make the frightful face of a zombie or Frankenstein monster!
ACTUAL WORMS & INSECTS
Okay. I know what you’re thinking, which is why I saved these creepy-crawly treats for the end of this list. Roasted or fried mealworms, grasshoppers, and other edible insects have been making their way to American specialty food stores in recent years. They’re low in fat and high in protein, and are available in salted, honey-roasted, and even chocolate-dipped flavors. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, these crunchy critters may be just what you need!