Halloween is a nutrition nightmare, literally. It will always be the most health-challenging holiday. For almost every one of us, it represents the endless battle between parent and child to control the level of sugar rush our kids (and we parents who can't resist either) will experience. I, for one, know my girls don't need any costumes when the sugar monster takes control. Worse than Halloween night itself is the aftermath, which equals leftover candy that prolongs a one day holiday for numerous days, weeks, even months (depending on how much restraint you have) leaving parents to cringe every time they open that "special cabinet".
Since research shows that most parents partake in the candy eating fest at levels close to their children's consumption (Harry Baltzer of NPD Group stated that "Parents eat one candy bar of every two the child brings home") the quest to make it a healthier, more nutritious holiday favors all.
So what can we do to enjoy the festivities without being a nutrition Scrooge? Here are some of my sneaky tips to help control the sugar attack in our house:
- Don't buy Halloween candy yet - buy it the day before - that will prevent eating it before Halloween eve. Plus, you can get it on sale. And be sure NOT to buy your or your kids' favorites.
- Give kids a good dinner (high protein and fiber) before they go out trick or treating. This will keep them full, lessen the sugar spike and crash, and also prevent overeating candy during the evening. Examples of a good dinner are whole grain pasta with turkey meatballs or meat sauce -- and don't forget to sneak those pureed veggies into the sauce.
-If your kids want to eat candy throughout their time trick or treating, give them a lollipop to suck or bubble gum to chew -- this will keep their mouths happy for fewer calories (it's a trick I use on myself when I take the kids out so I don't nibble on too much candy).
-Encourage your kids to skip, hop or jog to their next Halloween destination instead of just walking. Not only will they burn at least twice the calories, they'll use up a lot of the excess sugar energy they're eating, and they'll have a lot more fun doing it.
-After Halloween, give away a handful of candy everyday until it magically disappears, tossing the entire bag out at once will cause a riot. Allow kids to eat a piece or two of candy a day.
-To avoid temptation, keep the candy somewhat out of sight (and hopefully out of mind -- not in clear glass bowls/jars out on the counter.) Research shows that the type of candy dish and its location impacts our consumption. In one study, office workers "ate the most chocolates when the bowl was on their desk and clear and ate the least chocolates when the bowl was far and opaque."
Since everyone needs a little bit of sweetness and fun during Halloween, here is my recipe for Sneaky Chef Pumpkin Spice Donuts and Muffins that parents and kids can enjoy with a little less worry this year. Happy Halloween!
SNEAKY CHEF PUMPKIN SPICE DONUTS & MUFFINS
Makes 6 muffins or 12 donuts
1 ¼ cups Flour Blend (equal parts whole grain flour, all-purpose flour, and wheat germ)
2 teaspoons baking powder
One-half teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or equal parts cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons walnut, canola or vegetable oil
6 tablespoons Orange Puree (see Sneaky Chef Make-Ahead Recipe below - or substitute 6 tablespoons carrot and/or sweet potato baby food)
½ cup pure pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One-half cup brown sugar, packed
Optional decorations: white or orange colored frosting with orange and black sprinkles or Halloween candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a mini-bundt (or donut) pan with oil. If you choose the cupcake option, line a muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the Flour Blend, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, Orange Puree, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and brown sugar until well combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until the flour is just moistened. Don't over mix. Pour into donut molds or fill muffin cups almost to the top. Spray tops of donuts or muffins with oil before baking.
For donuts: Bake 14 to 16 minutes until the tops spring back when pressed lightly. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn the donuts out over a plate. Allow to cool, and then decorate as desired
For muffins: Bake 22 to 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the muffins out of the tins to cool. Dust tops with powdered sugar or decorate as desired.
SNEAKY CHEF MAKE-AHEAD RECIPE: ORANGE PUREE
1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Place the carrots and sweet potatoes in a medium-sized pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, until carrots are very tender. Careful - if the carrots aren't tender enough, they may leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables in recipes, which will reveal their presence to your kids--a gigantic no-no for The Sneaky Chef.
Drain the carrots and sweet potatoes and put them in the food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth - no pieces of vegetables showing. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water to smooth out the puree, but the less water, the better.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree; double it if you want to store more. Orange Puree will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1⁄4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.