Halloween conjures up memories of pumpkins, straw bales, and candy for me. Pretty soon our doorbells will be ringing, and we will answer it to find masked and face painted children saying “trick or treat?”
We know they want sweet treats, and let’s be honest, sometimes we want them too. A nice bowl of chocolate kisses or Jolly Ranchers is convenient for us to snack on, and why not, it’s only once a year, right? When you think about it, though, kids and adults have access to sugary treats more than just once a year. Many times, it’s several times a day.
Over-consumption of sugar is the leading cause of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and dental problems, including cavities. Eating a diet that is high in sugar also greatly affects the performance of kids in school, and in their daily social interactions.
Sugar has many other names, including high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, and pretty much any other ingredient you’ll find in processed foods that rhymes with “gross.” And it’s in more than just soda, candy, and imitation juice drinks. You’ll also find high amounts of sugar in places you’d least expect it, like granola bars, refined pasta, snack packs, and other convenience foods. It causes quick bursts of energy, followed by big energy crashes, which can lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, among other symptoms.
So, although strange to think about Halloween without the candy, remember that kids already have plenty of access to this type of food. Why not use it as a time to educate, instead. It might make you seem un-cool, but kids’ teeth and health will thank you in the long run.
Even, better, try coming together as a community to up the ante on health standards for Halloween treats. Here are some ideas for great Halloween handouts to get you started:
– School and art supplies
– Fun noisemakers
– Healthy cereal bars that contain no partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), high fructose corn syrup or any ingredients that rhyme with “gross,” and contain 10 grams or less of sugar
– Small boxes of cereal or snack packets, but make sure to read the food label and avoid ingredients mentioned above
– Juice boxes that are labeled “100% Juice” (That means they contain no added sugar, just the naturally occurring kind, plus it contains vitamins and minerals to even it out)
– Fresh fruit like apples, bananas, or oranges
– Homemade popcorn (not from the microwave)
– Dried fruit or trail mixes (leave out the peanuts because it is a common food allergy)
– If you really just believe in handing out candy, try coupling it with a healthy item.
– Try making your own sweet treats! Here are a couple harvest themed recipes using pumpkins and apples. The following recipes are low in fat and sugar:
Makes 2 dozen cookies
The sugar in this recipe was reduced by 1/3, and the spices were doubled
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking power
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup pumpkin
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins and/or walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine butter, sugar, and egg, and mix until fluffy. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients well. Add wet ingredients to butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Combine dry and wet ingredients. Mix well. Add nuts and/or raisins. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
8-10 wooden sticks
8-10 small, tart, locally grown apples
Nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles, or bit sized candies to coat.
Insert a wooden stick into each apple. In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees (about 30-40 minutes). For a softer caramel, cook to a few degrees cooler. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture, and turn to coat. Holding by the stick, sprinkle with nuts, or whatever else you desire, while the caramel is still warm. Set on generously buttered wax paper to cool. Note: If making a double recipe, use two separate pots.