Forget the spooky costumes and horror movies; Halloween's scariest oddity has to be the insatiable desire for candy. After a long bikini-clad summer, it seems like All Hallows Eve is the first holiday where cheating on our diets seems perfectly acceptable. The onslaught of commercials, office parties, and grocery store aisles promoting the gooey, ghastly fun can make it hard to resist the urge to unwrap and enjoy. But before diving into that big plastic pumpkin of bite-size goodies, know that there are plenty of healthier Halloween-inspired treats that won't sacrifice the fun.
Although the end of October is still warm in New Orleans, our local produce shows the changing of the seasons despite that it still looks (and feels) like summer. Pumpkins, squash, carrots, and golden peppers appropriately reflect autumn colors and are easy to incorporate into the decoration and menu of any Halloween-themed party. Try arranging candy corn-colored vegetables, like slices of yellow bell peppers, yellow grape tomatoes, baby carrots, and cauliflower, on a tray with your favorite veggie dip for a fun crudité platter. Make it even more festive by serving the dip in a scooped out miniature pumpkin. Kids (and adults) won't be able to resist.
Crunchy, buttery Rice Krispies Treats® are a must-have at any Halloween event, especially when cut into fun shapes like pumpkins or ghosts. Make them gluten-free with Gluten-Free Rice Krispies cereal and Dandie's gluten-free marshmallows (available at Whole Foods Market). The gluten-free version is slightly crispier than the regular one, so they hold up well when combined with the melted marshmallow and butter mixture. For something a little goofier, try making "healthy smiles" by taking two slices of red apple, smearing them with a nut butter of your choice, and lining them with miniature marshmallows to make "teeth." Or get the kiddies involved by having them draw pumpkin faces on the skin of clementines in black marker to display at home or hand out at school. They're edible artwork!
We all know that no Halloween is complete without something sugary. But for those who are sensitive to or restricted on sugar, this candy-driven holiday can be dangerously tempting. Luckily, local confectionary stores offer a variety of sugar-free options to their customers. Bittersweet confections owner Cheryl Scripter has sugar-free truffles in flavors like mocha, chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, and hazelnut. She also offers vegan truffles made with cashew milk and a 74 percent dark chocolate trail mix bark made with toasted pecans, pistachios, almonds, coconut, and dried fruit. Scripter's chocolates can be made in Halloween-themed molds on request. Over at Blue Frog chocolates on Magazine Street, owner Ann Streiffer makes sugar-free ghosts and pumpkins in milk or dark chocolate.
And family owned and operated Lolli's Chocolates, located on Hickory Avenue in River Ridge and Uptown on Magazine Street and on St. Charles Avenue in the CBC, can make orange and black decorated sugar-free chocolate-dipped strawberries, pecans, apples, and pretzels for an easy and impressive party platter.
If your house is one of those that see a ton of trick-or-treaters, it might be a good idea to have a gluten-free option for children who may be intolerant. Local sweet shop Sucré will be selling their gluten-free "baby bars" (in dark and milk chocolate almond) in 100-count packs at their locations in Metairie and the Garden District. Joyva Sesame Crunch miniatures, which can be found at Kosher Cajun in Metairie, are another great gluten-free trick-or-treat option. These sweet little candies are made with just four ingredients - sesame seeds, corn syrup, sugar, and honey - but are toasty and warm on the tongue, giving them a sophisticated flavor. For an extensive list of name brand gluten-free candies that can easily be found at local drug or grocery stores, check out celiacdisease.about.com.
Halloween is all about being over-the-top, but that doesn't mean that everything you eat or serve has to be over-the-top unhealthy. There are plenty of gluten-free, sugar-free and candy-free alternatives that can suit a number of different ages and preferences. So whether you're throwing a ghoulish bash or handing out treats to kiddies in masks, providing options that are a bit more healthful and mindful of different diets is a courteous and fun way to get everyone into the spooky spirit.