As parents, Halloween is a blast. What other time can we play with our kids in such wild ways, helping them transform into their alter-ego fantasy characters as ghosts, princesses, Superman or perhaps even Harry Potter? If we are game, we might get to enliven our own fantasies and join in the fun of dressing up and being a bit spooky ourselves. It really is a pretty crazy holiday.
As fun as the holiday can be, it is also a time that many parents dread because of the obscene amount of junk food that our kids can eat that is sanctioned by society. Knowing how toxic sugar-filled candy is (not to mention the barrage of chemicals, food colouring and preservatives that are usually put in the treats) can make us feel like sell-outs as parents, especially if we typically make efforts to be conscious about feeding our kids food that honours their growing minds and bodies.
You may be wondering how you can avoid being a party-pooper by not only embracing the holiday with your adorable little Darth Vader, but also by finding ways to make Halloween not only fun, but healthier as well. I’m here to tell you that I have a few tricks I up my soon-to-be witches sleeves to help you be the mommy superhero of your dreams.
For example, in keeping with the theme of the holiday, you can make irresistible treats that will satisfy the junk food cravings that also happen to be healthy. I have found that Caramel Popcorn, Fudge, Truffles, or Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are always a hit with kids and adults alike. You can always make adjustments for special dietary needs, such as replacing the maple syrup with yacon syrup for an extra low glycemic index (low-GI) variation, replacing the popcorn with popped amaranth, if corn is an issue, or replacing another nut, seed or soy butter in the chocolate candy recipe, if peanuts are a problem for anyone you are serving.
If you want to create some freakish dishes special for the holiday, you can spiralize zucchini to make the longest “worms” ever and then cover them with Marinara Sauce, if you are seeking the macabre blood effect.
One of my favourite Halloween themed treats is Juice Jelly with peeled lychee fruit (with pits still in them). There’s nothing like the idea of eating eyeballs that are suspended in red jelly to add to the creepiness of the holiday. If you serve this dish, be sure to let everyone know to remove the pits when eating!
If you can find a way to focus your Halloween activities away from Trick-or-Treating in the neighborhood by having a fun-filled party at your home, the amount of sugary “loot” your children will be exposed to can be reduced significantly.
Offering non-food treats is another great strategy. Along these lines, but with a much bigger vision is an initiative you may have heard of called The Teal Pumpkin Project™. This international campaign, supported by Food Allergy Canada “raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.” To participate, simply put a teal-coloured pumpkin in front of your home to show that you are offering non-food treats, so that even children with food allergies or sensitivities to sugar can also safely enjoy sharing in the enjoyment of the holiday.
You can find more ideas about healthy and inclusive living in my award-winning book, YUM: Plant-Based Recipes For A Gluten-Free Diet (2015 Best Diet Book in Canada & 2016 “Best In The World” Gourmand Award Recipient).
*A portion of the proceeds of the book are donated to charity.