Halloween is my favorite holiday (next to Christmas obviously. I LOVE Christmas, but it’s a very close call). And it’s bigger and better here in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. I’m also so excited and amazed by all the decorations, costumes, and parties. But there’s always a part of me that wants to make sure that I’m also teaching Edison and Arlo about also taking care of our environment. I’m learning there are easy shortcuts to making Halloween a little healthier for kids and our planet.
Seriously, guys, a sustainable Halloween is totally possible!
For us, that means doing our best to avoid treats filled with GMOs, sugar, artificial dyes, and other questionable ingredients. I do this because I know my kids don’t respond well to too much refined sugar or too many artificial dyes. Obviously, this isn’t always going to be possible, but I am all about making healthier choices WHEN I CAN. I do not deny them treats that they are given by someone else unless they are bright blue – no blue dye here and they know it!
There are a surprising number of naturally-dyed candy options now available. I also look for recipes for homemade treats we can take to Halloween parties that get into the spirit, no pun intended (total lie – I love a good pun), that are also more nutritious.
Teaching kids what to look for on labels:
Okay, so sweets may never qualify as “healthy.” But I am always actively looking for places that carry a larger selection of organic treats as well as earth-friendly non-food treats. I’m also beginning to teach Arlo and Edison how to read food labels.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself as I evaluate Halloween goodies in an attempt to have a healthier and more sustainable Halloween season:
#1 – Do fewer calories mean it’s a better choice?
In reality, a lower calorie count might just mean it’s made of pure sugar. I’m looking at you, Peeps….
# 2 – Does it contain certified sustainable palm oil?
I’ve discovered that many of the largest candy and snack manufacturers, such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, are committed to using 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil. How cool is that?! Much of the palm oil in the American food supply comes from Malaysia, a global environmental leader. Malaysia’s certified sustainable palm oil production is credited with preserving wildlife and improving living standards for the country’s family farmers. The Malaysian palm oil industry is also a huge contributor to wildlife conservation, and that is really important to us and to the planet.
#3 – Is it free of artificial flavors and colors?
Like so many kids, my boys tend to be sensitive to chemicals. So I look for candy with natural food colorings from vegetable dyes. Unreal Candy uses natural ingredients such as beetroot, carrot, and red cabbage juices to color the candy coatings.
#4 – Is the packaging recyclable?
Individually packaged treats aren’t the best for the planet, but they are unavoidable at Halloween. When shopping for sustainable Halloween treats, I try to find snacks wrapped in recyclable materials, such as GoOrganic Fruit Chews. Candies and raisins in individual recyclable boxes are also a great choice. If you’re handing out non-food treats, consider usable items such as pencils and coins (which can be bought in multipacks), instead of plastic toys that quickly get broken and tossed. You get more bang for your buck that way too, so everyone is a winner!
#5 – How else is the manufacturer greening up this sweet treat?
Many candy manufacturers are now using locally sourced ingredients, Fair Trade chocolate and/or organic chocolate which is free of lead and other adulterants. Others donate part of their proceeds to worldwide hunger and poverty relief. Glee Gum Pops is one of the few North American gums still made with chicle, a tree sap harvested sustainably. See, didn’t I tell you we could find sustainable Halloween treats?!
Two recipes for Sustainable Halloween treats I’ll be taking to this year’s Halloween parties:
One of our newest go-to treats that’s ideal for Halloween parties is homemade popcorn. When you make organic popcorn on the stovetop using Malaysian red palm oil, there’s a fun golden/orange color, you’re adding healthy nutrients, and there’s no chemical taste. Popcorn is also loaded with fiber.
My chocolate peanut butter cups made with Smart Balance peanut butter will also be a hit at this year’s neighborhood parties. I prefer Smart Balance for this recipe because it contains Malaysian palm oil, which supports brain health.
Courtesy of Chef Gerard Viverito
For the best popcorn ever, you’ll need:
- A large-capacity pot, about 6 quarts works well. Take note of the pan’s bottom. Thinner pots which heat up quickly are preferred over high-end, heavier-bottomed pots.
- 3 Tablespoons Malaysian sustainable palm oil
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- Add the oil to the pan, along with 3 kernels. Cover and heat over medium-high heat until the kernels pop. Then remove the pot from the heat, remove the popped corn and add the remaining kernels.
- Cover the pan, give it a shake and let it sit off the heat for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. How long you wait depends on how quickly your pot distributes heat. Waiting enables the kernels to come to temperature evenly and pop at approximately the same time. Otherwise, some kernels pop early and may begin to burn before the others have popped. Waiting also reduces the number of unpopped kernels (old maids).
- Put the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat with the lid slightly askew so steam can escape. Give the pot a few shakes. Once popping begins, the corn will pop very quickly. Popcorn kernels pop when the water vapor inside the kernel expands under heat. Once popped, however, this water vapor can turn popped kernels soft. Quick popping and a vented lid help keep your popcorn crispy.
- When the popping has slowed down, immediately pour into a large bowl. Toss with your favorite seasonings and serve.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Courtesy of Chef Gerard Viverito
- 6 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 8 tbsp Smart Balance peanut butter
- 4 tsp monkfruit sweetener
- 1 pinch salt
- Combine the chocolate and coconut oil and melt in the microwave for 10 seconds, stir and another 10 seconds or in a double boiler over on low heat then add salt and half of the sweetener and stir well to dissolve.
- Pour half of the chocolate mixture into 12 mini silicone molds or cupcake molds and chill until set.
- Melt the peanut butter in the microwave in two 20-second intervals, add the remaining sweetener and stir until it’s smooth.
- Pour some of the peanut butter into the chilled molds with the chocolate.
- Pour the remaining chocolate mixture into each mold to cover the peanut butter and chill until set.
What fun sustainable Halloween treats have you discovered? We’d love to learn how you are having a sustainable Halloween this year.