Monday, October 24, 2011

Healthy Halloween - Real Food, Real Fun (and No Artificial Food Dyes)!


It seems like every time I log onto Facebook, there are a plethora of new and adorable Halloween recipes in my news feed. I'm amazed at the creativity I see out there! However, I'm also amazed at how many of these recipes--ostensibly for kids--rely on processed junk and "ingredients" like artificial food coloring, which has been linked in studies to hyperactivity in kids and even to cancer.

I love the idea of making adorable Halloween treats from real food. This way, you can let your kids fill up on healthful snacks...and there's less room in their bellies for the junk they may get when they're at school parties or out trick-or-treating. Basically, you want to mitigate the potential damage. And today is National Food Day (whoop!), so what better day to celebrate real food?

I'm not a crafty gal. So, my suggestions may not be as cute as something like this. But my ideas are simple and use real food you probably already have in your kitchen. And if your kids are even half as excited about Halloween as my son is (his favorite adjectives these days are "spooky" and "creepy") they'll eat these up!

Halloween Creatures
  • Jack-o-Lantern Nacho Pizzas (photo above): toast half of a whole wheat mini flatbread, pita or English Muffin; mash some cooked beans with salsa and spread on toast; cover with shredded cheddar cheese and broil until melted; decorate with a scallion stem and black olive face. Note: Cheese is not naturally orange; a good quality cheddar will be orange due to annatto, a natural food coloring made from seed pods. But if you want to avoid the orange cheese, try making a ghost face instead using white cheese and olives. 
  • Ghost-gurt: sweeten plain Greek yogurt with a bit of honey or maple syrup; decorate with black grapes.

  • Monster Eyes: spread cream cheese or goat cheese on celery sticks; cut to about 1"-long and decorate with sliced, stuffed olives. (These were a favorite of mine when I was a kid and, more recently, when I was pregnant. They are crunchy, creamy, salty and yummy!)
  • Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkin Pancakes: the cookie-sized ones are perfect for a Halloween party; they're already sweetened with some maple syrup and the chocolate chips, so you don't have to worry about a sticky, dipping mess! 


  • Halloween-themed Dinners: A friend from high school always makes her kids a special dinner to eat (read: fill up on) before trick-or-treating. One year, she made pizzas in the shape of jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and witches' hats; another time she made rice ghosts with nori witches' hats, carrot pumpkins, and broccoli broomsticks. How cute are these?

Seasonal Colors

The Halloween color scheme is usually orange and black/purple/blue. Use foods that naturally have those colors and you won't need any yucky dyes to make your party festive!

  • Dark chocolate-dipped apricots are as sweet as candy (but much healthier). Dip half of the dried apricots in dark chocolate; set on wax paper in fridge until chocolate hardens, which should take just a couple of minutes
  • Halloween skewers: try black grapes with cheddar cheese or apricots and prunes.


  • Serve dark purple pepper slices with an orange-colored dip (I pureed some roasted red and yellow peppers from a jar, then mixed the puree into plain Greek yogurt with a bit of salt). Alternatively, try a black bean dip surrounded by carrots or sweet potato chips. 

Chocolate!

Most of the chocolate given to trick-or-treaters is the junkiest of the junk. But you can make wonderful candies, using good quality chocolate, at home. 
  • Chocolate Mustaches: using a mold and lollipop sticks from the craft store, fill with melted chocolate and chill until hardened. I made these for my son's birthday (with raisins and dried cranberries) but they seem particularly appropriate for costume-celebrating Halloween. Note: do not buy the "melting candy" you see near the mold at the craft store; that stuff is straight-up junk, with partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors and flavors.




Halloween Accessories
  • Buy some holiday-themed mini-muffin papers and use them with your favorite wholesome muffin or cupcake recipe. I used our Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with these cute spider liners from Target:


How does your family eat healthfully around Halloween?


UPDATE: Also check out our 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Bones!

8 comments:

  1. Glad you liked it, Melissa, and thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I love the little pizzas and chocolate mustaches! Adorable! Thanks for the inspiration.

    ~Melissa Placzek
    www.ChinDeep.com

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  3. Wow, yes! I've known him since we were 12 years old; we were in 7th thru 12th grades together. Very small world! Clearly you and I were fated to meet, even if only virtually ;-)

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  4. PS: Justine...this is random, but are you friends with a guy named Jake P. (to protect his identity, let's just say his last name is a type of tree). I just looked on his facebook and there's a comment from you on it. Small world! (We went to grad school together and worked together at our last job). 

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  5. Thanks, Jenn!

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  6. These are such great ideas, and I fully agree with you. It's terrible the way a lot of people equate processed food with kid-friendly food. If you make them good food that looks fun, they'll love it!

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  7. I love all the ideas in your blog. Thanks for the suggestions!!!

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