Halloween is (almost) here and without fail, I always get questions this time of year about how I approach the holiday with a “real food first” mindset. To me, celebrating Halloween while staying true to my value about well-rounded, real food for my family ISN’T about being perfect or depriving ourselves from the overall experience.
It’s about trying to upgrade the ingredients whenever possible & still savoring the joy of the holiday and season.
I know that we can enjoy the traditions of this holiday (and all holidays, for that matter!) while being mindful about what we’re consuming and understanding that we can find some (still very fun and yummy) alternatives that feel better internally.
And, I wholly believe that we can continue the fun & joy of the holiday without having to do it exactly like it’s commercially done.
So, here’s what we do when it comes to celebrating Halloween, especially in terms of our kids. I hope this gives you some ideas for healthier Halloween swaps and upgrades this spooky season!
Healthier Halloween swaps & ideas
#1. We make fun homemade Halloween snacks all October long:
This little thing covers a lot of bases. It lets me be in control of what’s in our festive Halloween snacks AND exposes the kids to fun, different snacks before Halloween itself. They’re not itching to get their hands on candy and goodies ASAP when October 31st rolls around because we’ve been celebrating and enjoying holiday snacks all month long, using food and ingredients I feel great about feeding my family.
Some of these include…
Ghost String Cheese: the easiest way to give your kids a little smile when they open their lunch.
Jack-O-Lantern Oranges: Another fun easy one. I like to do a bunch of these at once ahead of time and let them dry before storing back in the fridge.
Spooky Ghost Popsicles
I would recommend using some vanilla, honey or maple syrup (just 1-2 tsp) mixed into your yogurt, so it’s not too sour. Also it can be fun to sprinkle shredded coconut or crushed nuts after the yogurt too. Optional to use coconut milk yogurt here as well if you’re dairy free.
Makes 6-9 pops
2-3 medium bananas
1 cup whole milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
a handful of mini dark chocolate chips
1 tsp honey, maple syrup or vanilla
Cut banana at an angle in 3 places. Round the top of the middle banana to make it a ghost shape. Add yogurt to a small bowl and mix in honey/maple/vanilla. Insert popsicle sticks into the bottom of each banana. Dip into yogurt mixture, and smooth with your fingers. Place on a plate. Add in chocolate chip eyes and a mouth. Place in freezer for at least 20 minutes, and store in freezer like popsicles.
Apple Cider Gummies
These are a fun activity (for any age), they taste great, feel like a fun novelty AND they have great immune boosting and gut healing properties. Grass-fed beef gelatin (I got mine from Thrive Market) which is a gut and microbiome healer, very similar to collagen. For this recipe I used small silicone candy molds/gummy molds, but if you don’t have those, you can pour the liquid into silicone ice cube trays or into a square baking sheet and cut into small cubes after the liquid has set.
1 cup fresh apple cider juice
1 1/2 tbsp grass-fed beef gelatin
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp raw honey (I use this immune boosting honey, which you can always get 20% off using code simplyrealhealth)
Add apple cider to a pyrex measuring cup. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top to “bloom” (aka, hydrate), for 1-2 minutes. If you skip this step, the gelatin will get too clumpy. Pour liquid into a small saucepan, add honey and whisk over medium-low heat, until the gelatin dissolves and is smooth. Use droppers or a pour-spout to pour liquid into gummy molds (lined on baking sheets or plates for easy carrying into the fridge). Place gummy molds in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before popping out and storing in a sealed container in the fridge. They can last for 5-7 days in the fridge.
Pumpkin Oatmeal Seedy Muffins
These are the *perfect* breakfast or mid-morning snack— full of protein, fiber and healthy fats to keep you full, but that taste decadent and delicious. Try them toated with your favorite sunflower or nut butter. I love making a batch for the week ahead for busy mornings! If you can’t find canned pumpkin, you can swap in pureed butternut squash or cooked yams as well. I’ve also made these with a variety of seeds: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds mixed in, etc so use what you have!
1 can pureed pumpkin
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup garbanzo bean flour (or quinoa flour, or almond flour if not trying to keep it nut-free)
1/2 cup maple syrup (or more if you prefer a sweeter muffin) (you can also use 1/2 to 1 cup coconut sugar here too)
1/2 cup olive oil (or coconut oil, melted)
1 tbsp chia seeds (or seeds or your choice)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 medium eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 375 and line or grease muffin tins. Mix all ingredients together well and scoop into muffin tins (up to the top). Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown on all sides. Keep in fridge until ready to eat. Toast or warm for best texture and taste.
GF Pumpkin Scones
These fluffy biscuit-like little babies are just barely and perfectly sweet, and make the perfect Fall breakfast side or snack (that you can feel great about): packed with real foods and grounding nutrients. Makes 20 small scones
2 3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup maple syrup (or add 1-2 tablespoons extra if you want a sweeter scone, or less too- I used 2.5 tablespoons)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or add an extra tsp if you like a stronger flavor)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 cup coconut milk (from the can, blended first)
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix wet ingredients together first and dry together first (ideally). Combine together and mix well. Using a fork scoop out a tablespoon sized ball and swirl to gently flatten with the fork tines (the mixture is a little sticky thus this technique). Bake for 15-18 minutes until tops are a light golden brown. Store in the fridge and re-heat before eating
Bell Pepper Jack-o-Lanterns
This one is self-explanatory but oh so fun! Cut the top off of your bell pepper/s like a pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, and carve fun faces. Enjoy with hummus, guacamole, or make stuffed peppers at night for dinner.
#2. We buy Halloween candy with upgraded ingredients to trade-in the other stuff :
I am all about the fun & joy of the holiday and trick-or-treating is one of my favorite childhood memories. But knowing what I know, I do feel so much better when I know that the ingredients are thoughtful. Meaning, no corn syrup. No red dye or blue dye #40. No random preservatives and chemicals (that are connected to behavioral issues and diseases like cancer).
So, I do my best to find ones with ingredients I know & can pronounce to swap out some of the other options that come home.
Some of my favs are:
- Unreal dark chocolate coconut treats (now available at costco too) or amazon here.
- Unreal chocolate peanut or quinoa gems (like M&M’s). Milk chocolate version here or their 6 pack sampler of all their fun upgraded candy options here
- Yum Earth lollipops or Yum Earth gummies
Tip: I also love looking at Thrive Market too to get a few swaps for the candy that comes in that my toddler is excited about. We trade-up 🙂
Things like mini lara-bars, or these Soley fruit gummies, etc. Fun little novelty things we don’t usually have on hand.
#3. We give away fun things other than just candy on Halloween:
We get literally hundreds of trick or treaters in our neighborhood— it’s a thing— and as much as I wish we could hand out the high-quality upgraded candy to everyone, it’s just way too pricey. But, I love to get creative. And add in some other options too:
Other fun things to giveaway on Halloween: bags of chips or popcorn, stickers, tattoos, glow sticks. I usually do a mix of regular candy, and these things too. Honestly, you’d be shocked at how many kids choose the other stuff because it’s more fun or unique (or a bag of chips fuels the rest of their evening). Things like:
plus bags of GF chips
2-ingredient fruit leathers (both found at Costco).
I’ll keep everyone posted on IG (follow along here!) how it turns out this year, but I’m so excited and feel good about offering fun treats that I’d give my own kids.
#4. We approach Halloween night realistically & do a toy/book swap after!
Our night of Halloween approach: do all the trick or treating. If our toddler wants a few pieces, great, I just ask him what is your favorite favorite thing? He knows from last year that at the end of the night, he can pick a few of his favorite pieces to save (or upgrade to the high quality stuff in the pantry that he’s been eying), but then we leave it out on the steps for the “Great Pumpkin” to arrive.
In the morning, all that candy has been swapped for a toy/books that he’s been wanting for a while. We talk about this early in the month— like what he hopes the Great Pumpkin will bring him this year :
I wanted to share this because it works great for us, on so many levels. My toddler is happy, I’m happy, and I can feel good about our process.
What are your healthy Halloween tricks and tips? I would love to hear any & all in the comments below!