Not-so-spooky Halloween snacks


POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For health-conscious parents, Halloween need not be a time of horror. In the face of rising epidemics of childhood obesity and diabetes, grown-ups will find that it IS possible to offer festive treats both low in fat and with reasonable amounts of sugar.

A few substitutions to traditional recipes can turn frightfully unhealthful fare into satisfying, delicious, reasonable snack options, says Laurel Hudson, director of nutrition and culinary instruction at Wellspring Academies of California, a weight-loss boarding school for high-school and college students. The academy, which also has a branch in North Carolina, offers academic instruction along with classes in nutrition, healthy cooking and fitness.

Hudson's version of the marshmallow treat, for instance, calls for Fiber One breakfast cereal instead of Rice Krispies.

“;A 60-calorie serving will have 14 grams of fiber, which ... slows the absorption of sugar, so there's no sugar rush and crash. (With Rice Krispies you have fast absorption.) When you have a sugar high, the insulin spikes and crashes, and your sugar level is lower than before. Then you're dragging, so you eat more sugar, and it becomes a bad cycle. The cycle doesn't stop until you eat protein or fiber,”; Hudson explains.

Wellsprings' “;zombie fingers”; are simply low-fat hot dogs wrapped in low-fat croissants, while cheddar cheese popcorn balls offer maximum flavor for minimum calories.

Hudson uses cheddar cheese sprinkles in a shaker bottle, which is low in fat because the flavoring is dried. She pops the corn and sprays the kernels with Pam so flavoring adheres.

“;Pack on as much low-fat flavor as you can. Use herbs, spices, salts and peppers,”; she says. “;Popcorn is filling. It feels like you're eating a lot, but you're not - it's high in volume, plus it offers fiber, too, because it's a vegetable.”;


The gem of Hudson's offerings, however, is a pumpkin muffin recipe. It offers useful concepts for dieting bakers, especially since muffins can be just as high-calorie as cake. But muffins lend a flexibility cakes do not because their crumb isn't required to be as light and tender as that of a cake, she says.

Hudson employs a substitution of whole-wheat flour and the inclusion of oats to add fiber to the treat, while Splenda pinch-hits for sugar. To get around using oil or butter, she instead includes yogurt and unsweetened apple sauce. Fat-free sour cream or any kind of baby food fruit puree also serves well.

“;These ingredients provide a tenderizing effect on wheat,”; says Hudson. “;The apple sauce retains moisture, and the oats don't contain gluten, so they're not as coarse and chewy. They counter the absence of oil and butter.”;

If you're throwing a Halloween party - likely this year since the holiday falls on the weekend - Hudson has other tips, as well.

“;Instead of building it all around the candy, have events like apple bobbing and pumpkin carving,”; she suggests.

And don't just pass out candy. Temporary tattoos, tiny toys and glow-in-the-dark jewelry are great substitutes.

After Halloween, be smart about how you deal with all that sugary stash, Hudson says. First of all, know that some candies are less of a strain on the diet than others. Sugar-free gum is great for the waistline, and Twizzlers, Skittles and Sweet Tarts are fat free.

“;Monitor and control sugar but stay away from the fat,”; she recommends. If your child must have that miniature Snickers or Twix bar, portion them out.

“;Instead of leaving around a bag full of candy, put two or three small pieces in a Ziploc and hand them out,”; she says. “;Hide the stash.”;