Halloween Tricks and Treats

spongebob costumeFrom ghosts and witches to SpongeBob Squarepants, it’s hard to tell who will be knocking on your door this Halloween. While all foods can fit into a healthy diet, over-consuming sugary candies and desserts can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Instead of overloading visitors with sugar-laden snacks, try offering more wholesome treats this year.

On the Table

Featuring fall produce like winter squash (pumpkin, acorn squash, etc.) is a healthy way to save money while offering maximum flavor. According to the USDA’s Choose MyPlate website, including squash as part of a regular diet may reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Since it is rich in potassium, squash may also lower high blood pressure, reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and prevent bone loss. Squash is also naturally low in calories, which can help you achieve and/or maintain a healthy body weight.

Winter squash can be added to your menu in a variety of ways.

  1. Incorporate pumpkin by adding it to your favorite baked good recipes instead of oil. Fresh pumpkin pureed with water or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) can be used in a 1:1 ratio instead of oil. For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup oil, use ½ cup pumpkin instead.
  2. Fold canned pumpkin with fat-free whipped topping and enjoy alone as a creamy dessert or paired with angel food cake.
  3. Swap pasta noodles for spaghetti squash. Simply cut a whole spaghetti squash in quarters, pour ¼ cup water in a microwave-safe dish, place squash cut-side down in dish, and microwave for 7-10 minutes or until soft. Remove the “noodles” with a fork and enjoy!  (Source: Hungry Girl)

At the Door

Treats come in all shapes and sizes. This year, think outside the candy aisle and choose healthier alternatives to sugar-packed candies. Fruit and nut bars, cheese and cracker packs, and peanut butter crackers are great choices because they offer a balance of carbohydrate, fiber and protein without sugar overload. Cereal bars also can be used in place of candy, but avoid those dipped in a candy coating as these may pack as many calories as a candy bar! Or skip the sweets altogether and offer bags of fat-free microwave popcorn.

Or, consider non-edible goodies. Small toys or other items can be handed out in place of candy on Halloween. Young children will like them just as much as candy, possibly more since toys will last long after the candy has been eaten. Consider plastic spider rings, temporary tattoos, beaded necklaces, bracelets, bouncy balls, or even character Band-aids. Mini coloring books or activity pads from discount stores also make great treats for school-aged children.

Try this festive, healthy treat for your upcoming Halloween gathering:

Festive Pumpkin Trifle

  • 1 angel food cake, prepared
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) solid packed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 container Cool Whip Free
  • ¾ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 package sugar-free/fat-free vanilla instant pudding
  • ¼ cup walnuts

Cut prepared angel food cake into 1 inch cubes. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, prepare the pudding mix according to package directions. Stir in ½ cup of pumpkin at a time and the pumpkin pie spice. Gently fold in the whipped topping.

To assemble the trifle

In a trifle or large clear bowl, layer 1/3 of the cake on the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the filling mixture.

Sprinkle lightly with walnuts. Add another layer of cake, filling and walnuts, and continue to repeat until all ingredients added (with the last layer being the cream filling). Garnish with walnuts. Serves 18.

Nutrition Facts 

97 calories, 1g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein, 83g sodium.

Christina Rollins, MS, RD, LDN, is a Clinical Dietitian III at Memorial Medical Center.

  • Julie

    Am I missing something? The recipe calls for 30 oz of pumpkin but then only states to use a 1/2 cup? What is the white layer in the middle in the pic? Just cool whip?

    • Thanks, Julie! The photo we selected was actually a bit misleading, so we’ve removed it. And we’ve updated the trifle recipe to clarify that all 30 ounces of the pumpkin should be stirred in, ½-cup at a time.

  • Julie

    Thanks! Cannot wait to make this!