Written by Joyce Reich, SNAP-Ed Extension Associate
“Lions and tigers and bears…oh my!” Halloween is a time of scary fun and sweet treats. While we are not exactly sure when or where the tradition of dressing in costumes and knocking door-to-door for treats began, it has been an American custom for years.
Traditionally, Halloween trick or treat handouts have been candy. However, there are many alternatives that can be distributed to the youngsters that are also tasty and fun options. Individual packages of raisins or trail mix are great options for a less sweet treat. However, keep in mind that nuts should not be given to children under two years of age because they can be a choking hazard. Small juice boxes and individual pouches of hot cocoa mix are favorites with kids. Flavored crackers, graham cracker snacks, and pretzels all come in individual packages, making them easy to distribute. Other ideas include mini bags of popcorn, granola bars, crisped rice treats or other cereal mixes, and sugar-free gum. Presenting these alternatives in Halloween-themed packaging or decoration makes them even more exciting!
Consider non-food treats. Think creatively! Some ideas to get you started – pencils, shaped erasers, crayons, plastic spiders and other creatures, small toys, or novelties. Kids always love to receive money! If you give away coins, I would suggest that you tape them to something (such as a bookmark) to prevent accidental swallowing.
Treats should only be eaten when you arrive back at home. This gives the caretaker a chance to inspect the treats before letting the children eat them. Discard any opened items or treats that appear to be tampered with. Any fresh fruits should be blemish free. This way, you can make sure everything is safe to eat.
Children can be taught that all foods can be a part of their diet, but some foods are not as good for them as others. Most candy is high in sugar and fat and has little other nutrients. It also can suppress the appetite for other healthy food. Therefore, candy is a “sometimes” food that is eaten less frequently than other more nutritious foods and should be consumed in small portions. It’s okay to put away the trick or treat bag and only allow a piece or two of candy each day following Halloween. Using up the excess candy in other treats such as cookies or brownies is another good way to monitor candy consumption. This way children know treats are still allowed and fun to add in every once in awhile but should not be the main focus of meals.
Make sure children have a good meal before they go out to trick or treat. This will help give them the energy needed for their trek, as well as help them to stay warm. It will also help prevent frequent dipping into the goody bag because their tummies will be full.
Planning a Halloween meal that is quick and easy to prepare will allow the caregiver to also have time to enjoy the night’s festivities. Put some fun into the meal to set the holiday mood. A hollowed out pumpkin can be used as a container to serve soup or stew or small pumpkins can be used an individual soup bowls. Make a pizza in the shape of a pumpkin. Use cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella to give it a nice yellow color. Decorate it with black olives, pepperoni, and red, yellow and green peppers for a Halloween-themed look. Cookie cutters can be used to cut sandwiches into Halloween shapes. Use ones that have a fairly open shape without small projections when cutting sandwiches as it is easy for sandwich foods to get stuck in the small places. Or try out the recipe below for a quick and festive meal.
Have a fun, safe and scary time!
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 package (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning mix
- 12 taco shells
- 3/4 cup salsa
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
- 3/4 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1 can (2 oz.) sliced, pitted ripe olives
- Mix meat and seasoning mix
- Shape meat into 24 meatballs and place on 15x10x1 inch baking sheet
- Bake at 350° degrees F for 20 minutes or until cooked through
- Fill each taco shell with approximately 3 tablespoons shredded lettuce, 1 tablespoon salsa, and 1 tablespoon shredded cheese
- Top with 2 meatballs
- Put about 1 teaspoon sour cream on each meatball
- Top with a sliced olive to make eyeballs
(Note: Use lean ground beef or ground turkey and reduced fat or fat-free sour cream for less fat.)
Post reviewed by Marni Shoemaker, M.S., RD