We thought we’d take on the ultimate challenge this week: how to make Halloween somewhat healthy instead of horrifically unwholesome. Yes, Halloween, that spastic stroll through Candy Land, the annual Willie Wonka nightmare of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Does it really need to be this way, we ask? According to the conventional practice and the cooking/hospitality expertise of figures like Food Network’s Sandra Lee, yes. But then, Ms. Lee’s occasion cooking is always enough to send viewer’s blood sugar levels through the roof. (Seriously, are we wrong?)
And, what’s more, the complaints about Halloween seem to revolve almost exclusively around the red herring of oral health. (Not that teeth don’t matter, but what about health in general???) We here at MDA think a good Halloween party need not be a descent into insulin overload. And as for treats, there are indeed reasonable alternatives that won’t incite moans, groans, and midnight eggings. (Anyone ever get a tooth brush?)
A good party, it’s true is about more than the food, and we agree wholeheartedly with those who suggest playing up the games and merriment in place of the sweets. Still, food matters at any party, and you don’t want to disappoint. A bonus: if you fill up the little monsters with good primal fare before they’re off to neighbors’ doorsteps, they’ll be less inclined to gorge on stuff you’d rather them skip.
We thought we’d throw out a few ideas on kid-friendly food that can win nearly any seedling over to the primal table. (We consider some to be primal compromises, to be sure, but a little conciliation can go a long way on this particular holiday.) Many of the ideas can even be dyed or arranged for true “gross out” effect. Carrots with almond slivers make great “finger” food, olives can be eyeballs, and guacamole can be sold to the tots as monster snot. (Children, doesn’t it go without saying, are not for the faint of heart or stomach?)
- Fruit Spritzer (Add just a splash of juice to sparkling water. Throw in frozen black grapes and blueberries [or plastic spiders frozen in ice cubes] for effect.)
- Tomato Juice with Carrot “Fingers”
- Real Cocoa (Cut the sugar, and serve in smaller cups for a better version of an old classic.)
Main Dishes Fit For a Primal Monster
- Taco Salad (Who needs chips really?)
- Chicken or Egg Salad in Small Bibb/Endive Leaves
(Presentation, as always, can be everything….)
- Carrot, Red Cabbage and Raisin Salad
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Guacamole with Veggie Sticks
- Black or Kalamata Olives
Not Too Scary Snacks and Sweets
- Trail Mix (pumpkin seeds, nuts of choice, dried cranberries or blueberries, dark chocolate chips, etc.)
- Frozen Black Grapes
- Smoothie Popsicles (made with real fruit, low sugar yogurt, and flax seed)
- Fruit Salad Parfait (Layer cut fruit in between a mix of real whipped cream and low sugar vanilla yogurt.)
So, where does that leave you when the kids come to the door with their bags and pumpkins? If you’re ready and willing to go an alternative route this holiday, check out a few Primal style substitutions. Be as generous as your budget allows with the better stuff.
Admittedly hard to find in individual packaging, this option might be a good choice for kids whose parents you know.
Fruit Related Treats
Think 100% fruit leathers or boxes of raisins rather than fruit roll-ups. We know: sugar. But we’d rather see a seedling with a miniature box of raisins than a Twix any day.
Individually Wrapped Tea/Real Cocoa Packets
If the packaging is appealing, Mikey might like it.
Consider dollar store items like decorative mini-pens and markers, tiny Play-Doh or bubble containers, stickers, magnets, playing cards, and Halloween party favors like spider rings.
Finally, if your budget or schedule doesn’t allow for a complete overhaul this year, but you want to make over your own kids’ treat bags, consider the “barter” system. Have better treat options, small gift cards, and “privilege” coupons on hand with candy values attached that they can trade some or all of their loot for.
Have your own tricks for getting through the holiday without sugar shock? We want to hear them! Happy Halloween, everyone!