If you're planning a Halloween party, but the amount of sugar your kids eat this time of year gives you a fright, then it's time to make over the menu. With a few simple ideas, Halloween party food for your little ghosts and goblins can be healthy, nutritious and fun!
Start by using October's abundance of fresh vegetables to your advantage, and then apply just a little creative magic. Presentation goes a long way with kids when it comes to Halloween. "Children gravitate to unique-themed food, so I believe in playing with your food -- especially at this time of year when there is just so much candy and sweets," says Gina Meyers, author of the new e-book Hands on Halloween: Cookbook for Kids as well as From Muggles to Magic: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook and Love at First Bite: The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook. Try these spooky-but-good-for-you snacks:
1. Popcorn, a kid-pleasing whole grain, doesn't need to be loaded with butter and salt for this Halloween treat. Pop a couple of batches and set them aside.
2. Grab a pair of clear disposable gloves that are approved for food handling. Cut a small hole in each fingertip and place a piece of candy corn in the glove and through the hole for each "fingernail."
3. Fill each glove with air-popped popcorn and tie a black or orange ribbon on the base. "My 7-year-old loves these monster hands," says Meyers.
4. For extra fun, fill a glove with water and a little red or black food coloring, wrap the base tightly with rubber bands and freeze solid. Then peel off the glove and add the frozen hand to your punchbowl!
1. Put your bat- and witch-shaped cookie cutters to new use. Cut shapes out of lightly salted soft tortillas. (Flour, corn or whole wheat will do.)
2. Place the tortilla shapes on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 325 F for 3 minutes. Voila! You've got custom Halloween chips to serve with a protein-packed black bean dip or fresh tomato salsa.
3. Bonus: Those cutters are also terrific for adding a new twist to sandwiches. PB&J or hummus on whole-wheat bread is a treat when cut into bite-size ghosts and pumpkins.
Pepper and Orange "Pumpkins"
1. Think outside the pumpkin when you carve! Try using an orange bell pepper as a serving bowl. With a small knife (or a knife from your pumpkin carving kit), cut a circle around the stem. Then remove the seeds and carve a simple spooky face right through the pepper.
2. Pour a little low-fat ranch dressing (or another healthy dip) into the pepper and place carrot and celery sticks in the top.
3. Navel oranges are also easier and cleaner to carve than a pumpkin. Use a small knife to cut eyes, a nose and a mouth -- jack-o'-lantern-style -- just far enough into the rind to reveal the white pith. Kids will love to peel off the face and eat the juicy orange flesh beneath. Spooky!
1. A plate of nutritious vegetables can be a delight if you let your creativity run free. Use a large tray as your canvas and cut up pieces of crunchy vegetables such as celery, carrots, red pepper strips, snow peas, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets.
2. Assemble the veggies to make a skeleton body or a crunchy cat -- perfect for dipping into that pepper bowl. Your kids will be screaming for more.
1. Cut a whole-wheat English muffin in half and top with tomato sauce.
2. Starting a third of the way down, layer strips of low-fat mozzarella string cheese to look like mummy wrappings.
3. Cut pimento-stuffed green olives into slices and place on the top of the muffin for eyes.
4. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
Elaine Cipriano is a freelance writer based in New York. She has worked at such leading magazines as Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day Special Interest Publications and Home. She has previously contributed toLife & Beauty Weekly.