Have some healthy Halloween treats on hand to indulge your cravings
The scariest thing about Halloween is how much processed sugar is available at every turn! Here are some recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth and still keep your blood sugar in check.
One easy way to start switching up your traditional Halloween treat recipes is to experiment with healthier ingredient substitutions. When a recipe calls for white granulated sugar, I will frequently use a combination of coconut sugar, agave, Stevia, honey and/or maple syrup. Coconut sugar has a slightly lower glycemic impact than white sugar and is still in a granulated form. Stevia is about 300x sweeter than sugar so a little goes a long way! Be careful, though, if you use too much, it can have a slightly chemical aftertaste. Stevia is usually available as a powder or liquid. Agave and maple syrup both break down more slowly than white sugar so they give you less of a sugar high. Since they are syrups, it takes a little more work to substitute them for white sugar. Honey has a myriad of benefits, including containing some micronutrients and antioxidants. Never give honey to a child under one year old as there is a small risk of botulism poisoning.
Using gluten-free flours can be a tricky substitution in terms of blood sugar impact. Many alternative flours are potato or rice starch and very high glycemic. They break down into sugar in the blood quickly and can cause blood sugar regulation issues (an energy rollercoaster, headaches and even diabetes). Almond flour is a better alternative as it contains fewer carbs and some amount of protein and healthy fats. It does contain more calories, and baked goods will typically not rise because it lacks gluten. A good approach is to combine half almond with half all-purpose gluten-free flour. You will definitely need to experiment to find a good balance when using ingredient substitutions. If you are not gluten-sensitive, organic whole wheat flour is also a good option.
- Healthy Puppy Chow (aka Muddy Buddies). For those of you with children, Halloween can be a time to make a delicious treat together. Unfortunately, so many of the recipes out there are high in refined sugars and simple carbs. This naturally leads to a massive sugar high and then an inevitable, cranky crash. There are some simple ways to avoid these pitfalls, though. Adding healthy fat and protein to your snacks is a good way to provide sustained energy. Sugar breaks down quickly in the body and rushes into the blood stream (sugar high) where it is rapidly metabolized and either used by the body or stored as fat (sugar crash). When we add healthy fats and protein, we introduce foods that provide a more sustained energy release. Many recipes utilize nut butters and protein powder for these elements. Look for recipes that substitute eggs, nut butter and protein powder for some of the flour and/or sugar. Adding fiber to treats also slows the absorption of sugar and offers steady energy instead of just a quick burst. Utilizing low-glycemic fruits can be a healthy source of fiber that also adds natural sweetness – apples, berries, apricots, pears and plums are all considered low-glycemic fruits. This is a perfect recipe to make with the family to have a healthier version of a familiar treat. It incorporates protein powder instead of powdered sugar to coat the muddy buddies. Recipe here.
- Freezer fudge. This is one of my favorite treat recipes of all time. It is so easy to prepare – just mix and freeze. It lasts a long time and is a healthy snack packed with protein and healthy fats. You can play around with almost any nut butter to make this snack. I tend to steer people away from peanut butter as it has more pro-inflammatory fats than any other nut butter. Instead, choose butters made from almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, macadamias, sunflower seeds, etc. Protein and fat will help you feel more satiated and there is enough sweetness in this recipe to still feel like it is a treat. When looking for nut butters, read the labels and make sure no corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup or sugar has been added. You don’t need them in your almond butter. Look for the plainest stuff you can find. Ideally, the only ingredient will be almonds. Sometimes, the more natural nut butters experience a separation of the solids and oils. This just means you need to stir them before using or eating. Recipe here
- Caramel Apple Nachos. Need I say more? This is an easy fall treat that everyone can sit down and share. Slice the apples thin and spread them out on a plate (like nachos); then add a variety of sweet toppings. You can make your own chocolate topping and caramel drizzle or buy them at the store. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants than milk chocolate; and if it is too bitter, you can sweeten it with a bit of honey or Stevia. Apples contain phytonutrients and fiber to offset the small amount of sugar in the toppings. Add chopped nuts for texture as well as healthy fats. Use a mixture of green, yellow and red apples to make this dessert as beautiful as it is delicious! Shredded coconut is an optional topping – it doesn’t fly in my home, but it may be a big hit in yours. Find the full recipe here.
- Pumpkin chocolate dessert cups. Nothing says fall and Halloween like pumpkins. This recipe is basically a peanut butter cup with a pumpkin filling instead of peanut butter. Pumpkin is a good source of antioxidants, vitamin A and fiber. It is sweet and flavorful and pairs well with chocolate. Get the recipe here.
- Apple slices with almond butter and cocoa. This is a simple, healthy treat to whip up for kids and adults. Slice up your apple but keep the peel on because it is full of nutrients! Spread a glob of almond butter (or other nut butter) onto each slice. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the whole plate to add more depth and flavor. If this is too bitter, consider adding a sprinkle of Stevia or coconut sugar as well. This treat is a perfect combination of healthy fats, fiber and protein, with a touch of sweetness.