Last updated: October 26. 2013 12:41PM - 1085 Views
Mary R. Ehret, M.S.,R.D.,L.D.N. Penn State Extension

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Halloween has become a really big “treat” holiday. The stores are filled with sugar - sugar candy, sugar cookies, and sugared snack bars. Halloween is a “sugar” treat holiday.

Sugar in moderation is an OK for most healthy adults; however, most adults do not have many “empty” calories to spend. Empty calories are calories without any other nutrients. As we get older, our bodies are slowing down. We do not move as much as when we were younger and our metabolism naturally slows down, hence, we require fewer calories. For kids, it’s best to reduce sugar and begin healthy snacking habits.

Let’s take a look at a few popular snack foods that contain added sugar - soda, non 100% fruit drinks, white iced sugar cookies, store bought cookies, snack cakes and, of course, candy. Now let’s look at snack foods that contain natural sugar: fruits, dried fruits, fruit juice and milk. The list is not long, but we can use some of these ingredients to make healthy treats. Looking at the type of sugar, added sugar versus natural sugar, and the amount of added sugar in snack foods is important. The food label lists the ingredients added to the food item. Check it out. Find where sugar is on the list. The first ingredient listed is highest in concentration in the product. Note, there are lots of names for “sugar.” Here are a few: Sucrose (sugar), glucose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup.

Next, look at the calories in the snack foods. Below are some average calories for some popular candies. Take a look at the food label for serving sizes and calories.

1 “fun size” chocolate candy bar: 80-100 calories

1 “bite size” chocolate candy bar: 40-55 calories

25 small jelly beans: 140 calories

20 pieces of candy corn: 100 calories

2 caramel chews: 80 calories

Licorice (3 sticks): 130 calories

Eating these types of food in moderation is important. Sometimes people call this “will power.” Remember, it only takes an extra 250 calories per day above your daily caloric needs to gain ½ pound each week. Or 3,500 extra calories a week to gain one pound. Incorporating some of the natural sugar treats into our Halloween this year might save us our kids from gaining a few extra pounds.

Many people today have Halloween parties for children instead of sending them out trick or treating. Here are ideas for healthy Halloween snacks to either serve or bring to the parties. These snacks have fruit, vegetable, eggs or milk as ingredients to boost the nutrients. By blending these ingredients with brown sugar or candy coated chocolate, you enjoy the sweetness and gain nutrients.

Pumpkin Squares

16 ounce can pumpkin

4 eggs

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular flour

1 TBS ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups brown sugar

¾ cups rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs and oil until well mixed. Combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into sprayed 13 X 9 baking pan. Bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Makes 24 bars.

Whole Grain Snack Mix

4 cups plain popped popcorn

2 cups whole grain circle oats cereal

2 cups either raisins, dried cherries, or banana chips

2 cups of chocolate chips or candy coated chocolate chips

Mix together. Place in treat bags and add a bow. Note, if you add nuts, it is best to note it on the bag. Item has added nuts.

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