Healthy Halloween!

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?)

The Celebration…

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.

Finger Food

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

  • Meatballs
  • Taco Salad (Who needs chips really?)
  • Chicken or Egg Salad in Small Bibb/Endive Leaves

Spooky Sides

(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.)

The Treats…

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.

Dark Chocolate


A couple options include Ghirardelli 60% cocoa squares or Organic Dark Chocolate Bug Bites and Chimp Mints (70% cocoa content) from Endangered Species Chocolate.

Nuts/Trail Mix

Trail Mix

Admittedly hard to find in individual packaging, this option might be a good choice for kids whose parents you know.

Fruit Related Treats

Fruit Leather

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.

Non-Food Options


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!

radialmonster, Dru, code_martial, bastique, Cle0patra, cv47al, clownfish Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

10 Last Minute Holiday Health Tips

Holiday Health Survival Guide, Part 1

Holiday Health Survival Guide, Part 2

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24 thoughts on “Healthy Halloween!”

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  1. “(Anyone ever get a tooth brush?)”

    HA! My wife is a dental hygienist and she’s always trying to hand out toothbrushes and tooth paste.


  2. Hey – I just found your blog and LOVE this article! To be honest, I can’t stand this holiday just because it is centered around unhealthy treats! I love your suggestions that help it become a little better for our kids.

  3. LOVE the bartering idea! Have a 2.5 year old and am in the process of figuring out how to transition her diet away from grains. Have removed most of them from the house to limit access but have a spouse who “needs” his bagels and have limited control over what she gets at daycare.

    Would love to hear any ideas out there about getting a child to eat well. She loves some vegetables and tries everything she sees me eat but it isn’t always pretty.

  4. Of course I’m still new to primal, only like 3 months in, so I was anxious to hear what Mark had to say about Halloween. I thought of giving out toys or something, but my boyfriend is the opposite of primal, so I got the candy for him and the kids. I might still go out and buy some stickers or something. This is just a tricky holiday to make primal. Pun intended.

  5. April – Some of these suggestions may not be spot on for a child as young as 2 1/2 years old, but see if any of these archived posts help:

    I’ll toss in a couple more semi-related posts/categories just for fun…

  6. You’re right, Erin. It was no easy task putting this list together. No one wants to be a stick in the mud, so the challenge is to find replacements for standard all-American candy bars that won’t result in laughs or scorn from the neighbors (or your own family!). We hope this post at least sparked some ideas. Thanks for reading (and commenting)!

  7. I think the sticker idea is a good one, at least for the 3-6 crowd. Especially if they are themed (i.e. Hannah Montana for girls) they will definitely like them. It might loose its effect on older children though, so maybe an alternative toy like a Halloween pen.

  8. I’m always amazed at how many people consider themselves christians, yet go all out for this pagen holiday. (there are several other religions that also claim to hate everything this holiday stands for)

    I can’t speak for everyone, but some of you may wish to re-evaluate your religion before you think about healthy alternatives that still do the same thing.

  9. I thought it was interesting that when the Christians came to Ireland they tried to incorporate Halloween, or Samhain, into their religion because the people weren’t abandoning their traditions that easily. That’s pretty much what All Saint’s Day is, the Pope trying to replace Samhain with a church holiday. Yet, they accepted that people would still carry on similar traditions. I personally feel that it doesn’t make you less of a Christian for celebrating it.

    Wow, we went from sugar shock to religion. Interesting day at MDA. 🙂

  10. Erin,
    I totally agree with you, celebrating Halloween doesn’t make you less of a Christian. Even here in the city i live Pastors open their churches and have Halloween parties for “ALL” kids in this city to stop in. My opinion is that celebrating any holiday is about getting together and having “Fun!”

    Actually, i esp. love Halloween because my grandson was born on that day, and i celebrate!!!

    Great Post, i love all the trick or treat ideas, esp. the veggie plate, that’s too cute!

  11. Hmmm. I think I might be the stalwart here. Once per year – maybe not Halloween exactly, but ONCE (or twice) per year, I see the charm of the all-out sugar binge.

    It makes you a bit queasy, hopped up on energy, possibly a little sick, and while you’re in progress it just tastes so darn good.

    So, I will keep doing it. One a year. Maybe twice. With no regrets, other than a stomach lurching that helps hold off any desire to repeat the process until the next one.

    Does that sound like the rationale for a college drinker? A (gasp) marathon runner? Perhaps. But oh, boy, that sugary goodness.

    Sorry. You might want to shun me now.

  12. I love Halloween, always have. Halloween stands for fun, that’s it.

    I don’t eat sugar so I don’t think I’ll have a problem tomarrow night. I agree Andrea, having treats once in awhile, especially a holiday is fine. I gave out play dough the past two years.

  13. Crystal,
    Just want to say hi, play dough-great idea!
    YES, Halloween is FUN! And very special to me,
    my grandson is my lil’ pumpkin!
    It’s a great feeling to give stuff out and
    put a smile on kids faces, that does my
    heart good!!!

  14. Thanks Crystal,
    I wish you a Happy Halloween with your
    kids and Skippy!


  15. I remember getting three types of “treats” in my basket: candy, coins and fruit. The candy and the money are both fine, but the fruit is just rude. The people who gave us that wanted it to be “healthy”, but the reality is that it was heavy to carry and only made us tired. At the end of the day we had so much fruit that even though our whole families ate as much as they could half of it still ended up rotting and thrown away.

    I like the stickers idea (how about temporary tattoos as a twist on that). It’s cool (cool in the eys of actual kids) and light-weight.