There’s no sense in trying to avoid candy altogether during the Halloween season, but sometimes you need some sweets and treats that aren’t candy.
Prepackaged candy makes sense when you are handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but for Halloween parties and play dates, it’s fun to come up with spooky snacks that aren’t filled with caramel, nougat and however much sugar Reese’s puts in peanut butter to make it taste so good.
The most basic healthy Halloween treats I’ve seen are peeled mandarin oranges with a little twig of celery in the top for a stem and bananas cut into half (or thirds) with mini chocolate chip “eyes” that make them look like ghosts. For a savory snack, you could use a cookie cutter to cut witches, ghosts and pumpkins out of slices of cheese.
Rice Krispie Treats are full of butter and marshmallows, but with some orange food coloring, you can shape them into little pumpkins and use pretzels for the stem. One food blogger I found online came up with the brilliant idea of using green Airheads to shape into leaves on the top.
Airheads by themselves could inspire a hands-on kids’ craft project. Brightly colored and easy to soften and shape in small hands, this stretchy candy can mold like clay into anything their minds can come up with. Not exactly nutritionally meaningful, but fun nonetheless.
If you’re avoiding food coloring, you can use spinach to turn banana muffins bright green and call them “Frankenmuffins.” (Whether you tell the kids what’s in them is up to you.)
I love pepitas, but I don’t love roasted pumpkin seeds that come from carving pumpkins. If you’re looking for a recipe to use them up, try Kris Coronado’s pumpkin seed clusters, which rely on melted chocolate and marshmallows to make little nests of roasted seeds.
For kids who have dexterity with small paring knives, you could make the dehydrated apple jack-o-lanterns (or skulls) that food writer Ari LeVaux shared in his most recent Flash in the Pan column.
If you’re looking for a more simple apple project, try cutting thin slices and then spreading one side with peanut butter and filling in the sandwich with marshmallow “teeth.” The result looks like a wide-mouthed smile that isn’t exactly scary, but it’s a lot more pleasant to look at than cookies that look like severed fingers or peeled grapes that look like eyeballs.