From ghosts and witches to Spiderman and Cinderella, it’s hard to tell who will be knocking on your door this Halloween. While trying to get a good balance of all foods into a healthy diet, over-consuming sugary candies and desserts can lead to unwanted weight gain. Instead of overloading visitors with sugar-laden snacks, try offering more wholesome treats this year.
Lisa Eaton Wright, Wellness Coordinator/Registered Dietitian at Moraine Valley Community College and Spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association, offers these tips for a healthy Halloween:
At the Door
Treats come in all shapes and sizes. Eaton Wright suggests consumers think outside the candy aisle and choose healthier alternatives to sugar-packed candies. According to Eaton Wright, “fruit and nut bars and peanut butter crackers are great choices because they offer a balance of carbohydrate, fiber and protein without sugar overload.”
Consider handing out small boxes of raisins. Cereal bars can also be used in place of candy, but avoid those dipped in a candy coating as these may pack as many calories as a candy bar. Or skip the sweets all together and offer mini bags of microwave popcorn, an Eaton Wright favorite.
On the Table
Featuring fall produce like winter squash (pumpkin, acorn squash, etc.) is a healthy way to save money while offering maximum flavor. According to the USDA’s www.choosemyplate.gov, including squash as part of a regular diet may reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity and type-2 diabetes.
“Since it is rich in potassium, squash may also lower high blood pressure, reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and prevent bone loss” Eaton Wright said.
She adds that squash is also naturally low in calories which can to help you achieve and/or maintain a healthy body weight.
Winter squash can be added to your menu in a variety of ways.
- Incorporate pumpkin by adding it to your favorite baked good recipes instead of oil. Fresh pumpkin pureed with water or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) can be used in a 1:1 ratio instead of oil. For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup oil, use ½ cup pumpkin instead.
- Fold canned pumpkin with low-fat whipped topping and enjoy alone as a creamy dessert or paired with angel food cake.
- Swap pasta noodles for spaghetti squash. Simply cut a whole spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place squash cut-side up on a cookie sheet, and bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until it looks like it’s starting to dry out and you can easily insert a fork into the flesh.
Alternatives to Food
Small toys or other items can be handed out in place of candy on Halloween. Young children will like them just as much as candy, possibly more, since toys will last long after the candy has been eaten.
Consider glow sticks, bottles of bubbles, tiny decks of cards, plastic spider rings, temporary tattoos, beaded necklaces, bracelets, bouncy balls, or even character band aids. Mini coloring books or activity pads from discount stores also make great treats for school-aged children.
And, for a perfect end to an Autumn meal, here’s a tasty dessert idea:
Festive Pumpkin Trifle
- 1 angel food cake, prepared
- 2 cans (15 oz each) solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1 container Cool Whip Free
- ¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 package sugar free/fat free vanilla instant pudding
- ¼ cup walnuts
Cut prepared angel food cake into 1 inch cubes; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, prepare the pudding mix according to package directions. Stir in the solid pack pumpkin and the pumpkin pie spice. Gently fold in the whipped topping.
To assemble the trifle:
In a trifle or large clear bowl, layer 1/3 of the cake on the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the filling mixture
Sprinkle lightly with walnuts. Add another layer of cake, filling and walnuts, and continue to repeat until all ingredients added (suggest last layer be the cream filling). Garnish with walnuts.
Serves 18. Nutrition Facts: 97 calories, 1g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein, 83g sodium.