Some people have labeled me a Halloween scrooge. I promise, I’m not.
I do, however, take a strong stance when it comes to sugary Halloween treats: We don’t have to give kids candy to be festive. And if we want to make healthier choices, we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Trust me, plenty of folks up and down the block will be doling out the candy corn, Lemonheads and Snickers. Kids won’t be deprived because you and I opt to hand out other fun treats.
Same goes for the Halloween-themed desserts we make for friends and family.
Is an occasional piece of candy so bad, you might ask? Maybe not, but consider this: Studies have linked a high-sugar diet to obesity, insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure (even in teens) and risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
(Ask yourself: Can you really stop at a single, 1-inch Milky Way bite? Find strategies for cutting back on sugar here.)
Halloween will be sugar-filled, so rather than add to the pile, be creative.
Here’s a rundown of Halloween toys and takeaways that won’t leave trick-or-treaters in sugar overload, plus three recipes for festive fall and Halloween-esque food and drink that are fun, delicious, insanely easy to make and nutritious.
No matter how you celebrate Halloween, these treats are a hit. Added bonus: Unlike candy, these small gifts provide more than a fleeting moment of fun for kids of all ages. I found a great selection at Target, but Walmart and local shops have a good selection as well.
· Halloween tattoos and stickers
· Slime (How to make your own)
· Mini bounce balls
· Glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth
· Glow necklaces and bracelets
DIY HALLOWEEN TREATS
Any whole grain or protein pancake mix will work for this recipe, though Kodiak Cake’s Power Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix is one of my favorite on store shelves, and it has a hefty dose of whole grains and protein.
Pumpkin spice whole-grain pancakes, shaped like pumpkins
Makes 2 servings.
1 cup Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix
1-1/4 cup milk of choice
1 large whole egg
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1 tablespoon natural plant-based sweetener
Add ingredients to bowl and mix until smooth. Preheat large skillet and coat with butter or nonstick spray. Spoon or pour pancake batter into hot pan fitted with a heatproof pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter or mold.
Cook and flip pancake until golden brown on both sides. Serve with fresh berries, if desired.
Per serving: 130 calories, 3 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 230 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrate (18 grams net carbs), 4 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar, 7 grams protein
I loved candy corn as a kid, but there’s nothing nutritionally advantageous about pure sugar blended with wax and artificial food dyes. These cute little candy corn “sugar” cookies by food blogger Carolyn Ketchum are just as festive and, frankly, taste better. The best part: they’re low-carb, zero sugar and naturally gluten-free.
Candy Corn Cookies
Makes 24 servings
2 1/4 cups almond flour
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
3/4 cup granulated Swerve Sweetener
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5-8 drops natural yellow gel food coloring
1-2 drops natural red gel food coloring
In medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum and salt.
In large bowl, beat coconut oil with Swerve until incorporated. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Beat in almond flour mixture until dough comes together and clings to beaters.
Divide dough into three equal parts. For one part, beat in 3 to 5 drops yellow food coloring until a bright yellow is achieved. For another part, beat in 2 to 4 drops yellow food coloring and add 1 to 2 drops red food coloring until a bright orange is achieved. Leave one portion uncolored.
Pat each piece of dough into a rectangle about 4 inches by 5 inches in diameter. Stack the rectangles in desired order – uncolored, yellow and then orange — and press together, straightening the sides as much as possible. (Tip: use a flat kitchen implement to press against the sides to straighten.) Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and set oven racks in top two positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove dough from fridge and cut into slices a little more than 1/4 inch thick. Then, cut each slice into 4 or 5 triangles. Lay triangles about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and press down gently with palm of hand to flatten slightly to about 1/4-inch thick.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly puffed and just barely beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on pan.
The cookies will be soft until they cool. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet before removing.
Per serving: 110 calories, 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 35 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrate (1 gram net carb), 2 grams dietary fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 3 grams protein
Starbucks gave pumpkin spice a whole new life with its now-iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte. But a low-fat venti has nearly 500 calories and 64 grams of sugar. That is the sugar equivalent of 16 sugar packs.
This version of a Protein Pumpkin Spice Latte Frappe turns those numbers upside down, with zero added sugar and 19 grams of protein.
Protein Pumpkin Spice Frozen Latte
Makes 1 serving
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (canned, unsweetened)
2 tablespoons cold brew coffee concentrate of your choice
1 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut or almond milk
1 tablespoon Swerve or natural plant-based sweetener of choice
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, but latte will separate without it)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice blend, or make your own by combining (1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom,1 pinch of ground cloves, 1 pinch of nutmeg)
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until well-combined. Enjoy immediately.
Per serving: 160 calories, 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrate (5 grams net carbs), 3 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar, 19 grams protein
Editor’s note: Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is she paid to recommend items.