TTU nutrition professor, class offer tips for healthy Halloween treats

The scariest thing about Halloween for many parents might be trying to provide treats for their children that help keep them healthy as well.

Students in Cathy Cunningham’s introductory nutrition class for dietetics and nursing majors at Tennessee Tech University, however, know the tricks for offering healthy Halloween treats.

“I asked them to give me some healthy alternatives for Halloween treats — some that can be distributed to trick-or-treaters and others that can be served at holiday parties — and some of their responses were more creative than I would have ever imagined,” she said.

Ten suggested items to provide for neighborhood trick-or-treaters instead of candy and other sugary foods include:

• Fruits, such as apples or oranges;

• Boxes of raisins or bags of other dried fruits;

• Bags of plain popcorn;

• Cups of diced fruit, flavored gelatin or pudding;

• Trail mix;

• Granola bars;

• Ginger snap cookies, which are the most naturally low-fat;

• Individual packets of fruit-flavored instant oatmeal;

• Peanuts in shells, “which would make kids have to play with their food in order to eat it,” Cunningham said;

• And bags of roasted, spiced pumpkin seeds, with the contents labeled ‘witches’ teeth.’

“The most important thing to remember in planning a healthy Halloween party is to schedule it during a routine mealtime,” Cunningham said. “If you plan the party for any other time, then the children are going to be consuming excess food — which is never healthy, regardless of how otherwise nutritious your food choices are.”

Five ideas for child-friendly yet still healthy party foods include:

• Ants on a log — celery sticks spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins;

• Mummy fingers — baby carrots with one end dipped in catsup;

• Brain matter — cottage cheese strained of liquid but with curds reserved and mashed with blue, fruit-flavored gelatin and blueberries so that it resembles a brain;

• Blood and guts sandwiches — strawberry jam or cherry preserves, mixed with some of the same diced fresh fruit, and used as a filler for sandwiches;

• And bug bites — round crackers, spread with peanut butter, with pretzels placed to look like insect legs and raisins placed to resemble eyes.

Easy eyeball ice cubes can also be made by peeling almost all of a radish, reserving enough of its red skin so that it resembles the veins of a bloodshot eye, and hollowing out one end of it to hold the ‘iris’ — a pimento stuffed olive. Place each radish eyeball into an individual cube of an ice tray, fill with water and freeze.

“Every Halloween party needs some games, so why not make it part of the celebration to have the kids get involved in preparing their own treats?” Cunningham suggests. “Making their own ‘ants on a log’ or ‘bug bites’ could seem very much like a game to a group of children.”

Another advantage to getting children involved in their own healthy holiday food preparation is that it might help picky eaters add more variety to their diets.

“Children are more receptive to eating any food they’ve helped prepare,” Cunningham said.

It might likewise help children who are susceptible to over-eating as well, because it occupies them with assembling their meal — rather than just eating the food that has been provided for them.

Apply Now