Harvest time rolls around every year and you may wonder what snacks you can dole out that won't leave your trick-or-treaters looking like jack-o'-lanterns later. We put together this list of 10 healthy Halloween treats to satisfy you and your family's appetite for fun foods that may just make your heart sing.
Finding goodies that are portable, lightweight, nutritious and come in factory-sealed single serve packages can be quite the challenge. But sometimes it's just a matter of getting back to basics. Let's explore 10 treats that can tingle the taste buds while promoting one's health.
Plain and simple, roasted peanuts aren't just for enjoying at the circus or a baseball game. What makes bags of them a neat Halloween treat is that they're lightweight and don't need to be refrigerated. Although the single-serving portions supply nearly all the fat one adult needs in a day, these nuts are heavy in omega-3 fatty acids -- the ones doctors and nutritionists recommend for a child's brain development. They keep the brain functioning properly, which makes them an essential part of a healthy diet for kids and adults. Raw and whole foods aficionados rave about these relatively unprocessed treats -- they're a great snack with little or no additives or preservatives. Be mindful that some trick-or-treaters are allergic to peanuts, so you may want to have another treat on hand for them.
9: Pumpkin Seeds
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Jack-o'-lanterns are part of many Halloween decorations, but did you know that pumpkin seeds can support a healthy diet? Slightly larger than sunflower seeds with a softer shell that some people like to eat, these healthy Halloween treats can even help us think. Rich in zinc, which nourishes the brain, pumpkin seeds are also loaded with magnesium. Magnesium helps muscle, nerve, heart and bone function [source: Hillian]. What's more, these minerals help the body generate protein and absorb energy from food. If pumpkin seeds don't suit your palate, sunflower seeds are nutritional stars, too. They're a good source of copper, an antioxidant that enhances the metabolism of other essential minerals.
Did You Know? You can buy single-serving bags of roasted pumpkin seeds at many grocery or discount stores throughout the year.
8: Cereal and Granola Bars
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Cereal and granola bars are a perfect treat for people on the go -- even those parading door to door on Halloween night. Browsing the grocery store shelves, you may have noticed more brands and varieties of cereal bars than you can keep up with. If you can remember just one thing about this treat, it's that the best nutritional wallop is packed in organic brands and ones that are the least processed. Nutrition experts tout brands like Clif, Odwalla, Kashi and Luna, which are made without excess sugars and starch derivatives like high-fructose corn syrup.
One cherry dark chocolate granola bar provides 16 percent of the fiber and 10 percent of the iron and protein in a 2,000-calorie a day diet. Others make good sources of folic acid, a nutrient that can prevent birth defects.
7: Carrot Sticks
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Carrots in factory-sealed snack packs make for fresh and healthy Halloween treats. A 2-ounce portion of carrots provides 8 percent of the fiber and 220 percent of the recommended daily serving of vitamin A. You may have heard that carrots improve eyesight -- it's true, and you can thank vitamin A for that and more. This vitamin supports healthy mucous membranes, which trap pathogens and, in turn, prevent viruses and diseases.
The calorie count in raw carrots and celery is so low that some nutrition and fitness experts don't count them toward your daily intake. But watch out for the dip that accompanies prepackaged veggie snacks: A 2-ounce portion of ranch dressing contains 8 percent of the fat and 9 percent of the sodium in a 2,000-calorie diet.
6: String Cheese
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String cheese is a low-calorie treat that's high in protein and bone-building, teeth-reinforcing calcium. One stick of mozzarella or a mozzarella-cheddar cheese blend packs just 80 calories and fulfills 20 percent of the daily recommended serving of calcium for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Because it's a dairy product that can spoil much quicker than cereal or trail mix, you'll want to keep string cheese refrigerated until your trick-or-treater is ready to eat it. The protein and fat in these slim goodies slows down the metabolism of sugars and carbohydrates found in candy and starches, so pairing this healthy Halloween treat with a piece of candy will minimize a sugar high and provide sustained energy rather than a quick meltdown.
5: Popcorn Balls
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Although you'll probably have to make them from scratch if you get a craving in, say, March, during trick-or-treating season, you can usually find bags of factory-sealed popcorn balls in many grocery stores. Your favorite ghouls and goblins will like the fun Halloween themes on the packaging, and you can rest assured that they're getting a healthy portion of fiber without the excess sugars and fats that typical Halloween goodies serve up.
Munching and crunching to their heart's content, your children get 2 grams or 8 percent of the recommended daily allowance of fiber for every 28-gram popcorn ball they knock back. (That's based on a 2,000-calorie diet.) Containing on average 100 calories and 25 percent of carbohydrates the adult human body needs in a day, this low-sodium snack will leave you with a little wiggle room in your diet for a fun-sized candy bar.
4: Trail Mix
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Trail mix comes in a lot of varieties. With so many choices, you're likely to find a combination that's sure to please your Halloween crowd. A 1-ounce serving of traditional trail mix made with sunflower seeds, raisins, peanuts, almonds and cashews offers 8 percent of your recommended daily intake of protein. This low-carbohydrate treat is rich in essential minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. A 1-ounce bag of trail mix with chocolate chips supplies 10 percent of the copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus required for an adult's diet.
Did You Know? Manganese helps the body develop and maintain strong bones. In addition to helping metabolize energy, this mineral is an antioxidant that keeps cancer-causing free radicals in check.
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Pretzels are a year-round favorite for many snackers. New varieties and flavors of twists, sticks and nuggets grace the display shelves of grocery stores, convenience stores, sandwich shops and vending machines everywhere.
But how could something from the snack food aisle be nutritious? A 1-ounce serving of whole-wheat mini pretzels supplies you with 37 percent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese. This little bag of goodies serves up nearly 10 percent of the minerals niacin and thiamin as well as 6 percent of the protein an adult needs in a day. As with some of the other healthy Halloween treats we've learned about here, pretzels contain plenty omega-3 fatty acids. The cinnamon-sugar soft pretzels you find in the food court aren't as healthy, but those are too messy for trick-or-treating bags, anyway.
2: Sandwich Crackers
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Sandwich crackers are one of the most convenient and nutritious snacks you can find, which is why they also make great healthy Halloween treats. As you probably know, they come in an assortment of flavors, such as cheese and whole-wheat or peanut butter and multigrain. What you may not know is that a pack of these contains 7 percent of your recommended daily portion of protein and 8 percent of folate (folic acid), which fortifies your defenses against anemia and cancer, helps the body release energy from food and aids in the formation of red blood cells [source: Hookham]. As if that weren't enough, there's the 10 percent of vitamin K and riboflavin and 13 percent of thiamin you'll get from the cheese-filled crackers or the abundance of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids you'll get from the peanut butter-filled ones.
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A child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles makes an uncommon but healthy Halloween treat, particularly for children faced with diabetes or other conditions that restrict their sugar intake. Some dentists have begun donating cases of festively decorated toothbrushes to primary schools to give out to students to encourage proper dental care.
Oral hygiene prevents gum disease -- even in children, who you may think are too young to worry about it. If you're feeling really generous, throw in some trial-sized spools of dental floss and tubes of toothpaste, too. Dentists recommend brushing and flossing after each meal, so finding a toothbrush and some floss in the Halloween loot at the end of the night may be the healthiest treat of all.
Did You Know? Gum disease increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.