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October 2007

Have a Healthy and Happy Halloween

by Julie Bloss Kelsey

It's that time of year again ... windy days, falling leaves and children with wide smiles on their faces lugging home bulging bags of Halloween candy. But the fall season doesn't have to be unhealthy. The end of summer brings a bountiful harvest of healthy fall foods. Apples and pumpkins are in season now, as are squash, pears and broccoli.

"Apples have a lot of fiber, and they have no fat," says Susan Butler, co-owner of Butler's Orchard in Germantown. "They're already packaged and easy to carry. There are about 87 calories in a medium apple."

Nine varieties of apples grown locally are in season this month, according to Butler. "We'll have Gala, Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Cortland, Fuji, Empire and Stayman." She is excited to add a new variety of apple to the lineup: Honeycrisp. "[It's] a good all-purpose apple, great for eating and cooking."

Recipes Ripe for the Picking

Nikki Haddad agrees that apples are a wonderful addition to your fall pantry. Haddad is the owner of The Little Chef, a personal chef service that focuses on healthy Mediterranean foods. She says, "Apples have long been known as a nutritional powerhouse, providing such things as fiber and antioxidants, which aid in the prevention of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fall is a great time to experiment with apple recipes, as this fruit is fresh and abundant this time of year." Here, Haddad shares some of her nutritious apple-based recipes:

CHICKEN WALDORF LETTUCE WRAPS

Haddad says, "In the following recipe, apples add just the right touch of sweetness where sugar is added in similar recipes."

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 lbs. cooked chicken breast, diced

1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

2 tsp. orange zest

1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Boston lettuce leaves (good quality bread may be used in place of lettuce leaves)

DIRECTIONS:

In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, orange juice and zest. Fold in chicken. Mix in apples, celery and nuts. Scoop into lettuce leaves, then fold burrito-style to enclose salad in leaves and serve. Serves 4-6.

APPLE CHEDDAR PANINI

INGREDIENTS:

2 sweet apples, sliced thin

2 slices multigrain bread

1 tsp. honey mustard

1 oz. white cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Warm skillet over medium heat. Spread bread with honey mustard. Top with several slices of apple and cheese. Toast sandwich on both sides until warmed through.

APPLE CINNAMON BREAD PUDDING

INGREDIENTS:

10 slices day-old cinnamon raisin bread, cubed

2 1/2 cups peeled, diced Granny Smith apples

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

5 large eggs, beaten

2 1/4 cups evaporated 2% milk

1 cup skim milk

1 tbsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss bread cubes and apples together in bowl. In separate bowl, whisk brown sugar and eggs. Add evaporated milk, skim milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and whisk again. Stir in pecans (if used). Pour liquid mixture over bread and apples. Mix well and let stand 5 minutes to allow bread to absorb liquid. Transfer mixture to a 13 x 9 casserole pan coated with non-stick spray, making sure to distribute the apples evenly. Bake 60 minutes or until bread is deep golden brown and puffed up. Pudding is fully cooked when knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Food-Free Fun for Fall

It's easy to monitor your child's diet when you are the one making the food. As your children get older, though, things get trickier. Halloween is one of those fall holidays that can easily put a dent into healthy eating. If your son is overweight, you worry about him eating too much candy. If he has a food allergy, you agonize over whether to let him go trick-or-treating with his friends. Either way, your worries boil down to one basic concern: How can you make Halloween healthier without losing the fun?

One out of every 25 children in the United States is affected by a food allergy, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). The need for alternative Halloween treats and traditions emerges when you also consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that more than 15 percent of American children are overweight.

Enter "food-free fun," a term used by FAAN to combat the notion that celebrations have to include food to be festive. FAAN suggests such alternatives as planning fall gatherings with lots of games, having older children set up a fun house for the younger children or taking a family trip to the pumpkin patch.

Trends Across the Country

Families across the United States are moving toward healthier Halloweens. From giving out gift certificates to handing out iTune cards (with one- to three-song downloads), parents are getting creative when it comes to their treats.

"My neighborhood is into less sugar," reports Susan Thompson, mother of one. "Last year, my son got Halloween-themed pencils, small containers of play dough, stickers and small containers of bubbles" in addition to candy.

Melissa Baldwin, a mother of four, has a unique solution to the dilemma of too much candy. "We let our kids trick-or-treat, and then they pick out a week's worth of one candy per day and put it aside in a baggy with their name. The rest is left in a Halloween dish for The Great Pumpkin who visits during the night and leaves them a small toy in exchange for the candy."

Corey Colwell-Lipson is the mother of two and the founder of Green Halloween, a community-based movement starting this year in Seattle. Colwell-Lipson wants to turn Halloween into an environmentally friendly holiday, with the goal of taking Green Halloween nationwide in the next two years. "Tradition dictates that we give away only sugary treats to trick-or-treaters. Green Halloween suggests that you think outside the candy-box ... Provide options for treats and treasures that are not only healthy, but gentler on the earth as well. For instance, recycled plastic whistles, gemstones or locally grown honey sticks are all fantastic candy alternatives," Colwell-Lipson says. She adds, "Having a Green Halloween is as much about what you buy as what you don't ... A traditional Halloween may involve a lot of shopping for costumes, treats, party favors, [and] decorations ... Green Halloween means limiting the waste and increasing the amount of reducing, reusing and recycling that we do."

One easy way to recycle is to reuse your pumpkin. Butler reminds us to save those pumpkin seeds when carving our jack-o'-lanterns. "Pumpkin seeds are really nutritious," she says, adding that they are easy to cook. After you wash and dry the seeds, lay them out on a cookie sheet. Put olive oil and salt over them and put them under the broiler for five or ten minutes, stirring them once or twice. Serve once the seeds are cool.

If you carve your jack-o'-lantern right before Halloween, you might decide to cook your pumpkin. Butler suggests baking it until it is soft, then running it through a food processor and adding some spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger. "I like to eat a pumpkin like a potato," says Butler. "Just mash it up and use it as a side dish."

Focus on Fun

It's easy to get distracted from healthy eating at this time of year. Green Halloween has some great suggestions for alternate treats if you'd like to avoid handing out candy this Halloween. But whether you celebrate Halloween, sit this holiday out or fall somewhere in between, remember to keep your focus on healthy fun this autumn.

Julie Bloss Kelsey is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Germantown. She and her boys like to pick fresh produce at Butler's Orchard.


Looking to reduce your sugar intake this Halloween? Try this clever recipe from Nikki Haddad. "This low-sugar snack is fun for kids to make," she says.

HALLOWEEN HANDS

INGREDIENTS:

1 box plastic, nonpowdered gloves (the kind available at most dollar stores)

1 bag candy corn

Lightly salted butter-free popcorn

Orange and black ribbon

Plastic rings. Spiders and skulls work well for Halloween. These are also found at dollar stores.

DIRECTIONS:

Place one candy corn in the end of each finger of the glove. Fill the rest of the glove with popcorn. Tie the ends of each glove with colored ribbon, and place a plastic ring on the ring finger of each glove.

Like Haddad's recipes? You can reach her via e-mail at callthelittlechef@gmail.com.


Green Halloween offers inexpensive, kid-friendly ideas for celebrating an eco-friendly holiday. Here are some of their suggestions for fun, non-sugary treats to give out. (For more ideas, visit the Green Halloween website at www.greenhalloween.org).

Barrettes or other hair things

Bean bags (homemade)

Coins (U.S. or foreign)

Cookie cutters

Jokes

Large metallic star confetti or "fairy dust"

Pencils made from recycled money or plastic

Polished rocks/skipping stones

Printed items like word games, word search or crossword puzzles

Pumpkins (mini, dried)

Sachets (homemade)

Seashells and starfish

Soy or beeswax crayons

Spinning tops (wooden or recycled plastic)

Stamps from foreign countries

Stickers

Temporary tattoos (recycle-themed)

Whistles (recycled plastic)

Yarn bracelets


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