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How to Enjoy Halloween if You’re Avoiding Sugar (Yes, Really)

How to Enjoy Halloween if You’re Avoiding Sugar (Yes, Really)

If you’re on a low-carb or low-sugar diet, Halloween is probably your least favorite holiday. What’s there to eat? You look around and see candies galore, and it’s tough to avoid the temptation of digging right into the trick-or-treat bowl.

Luckily, there are still a few ways to appreciate good ol’ Halloween for more than just satisfying a sweet tooth—which you can still do, as long as you’re doing so in moderation and with the right treats.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Be Mindful of the Labels

First off—check those Halloween candy labels to see how many sugar grams there are per serving before biting right in. “According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 150 calories per day for men (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) and 100 calories per day for women (25 grams or 6 teaspoons),” says Seattle-based Ginger Hultin, RD and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And some candies can be deceivingly high in sugar. For reference, a fun-size Butterfinger has 100 calories and 8 grams of sugar and 8 pieces of Gummy Bears have 65 calories and 21 grams of sugar. (Seems crazy, right?) A Skittles fun size has 60 calories and 11 grams of sugar.

“It's easy to exceed your limits with just 1 piece,” she says. What’s more, if you’re diabetic or need to strictly monitor blood sugar levels, all that added sugar can cause levels to become out of whack, depending on your medical situation and medications, she explains. “If a person is avoiding added sugars for any reason, these types of foods probably won't fit in their dietary goals at all,” as well, she adds.

Pick the Best Options

You should go with the healthiest options possible—ones that are lower in sugar and calories, or have high volume for the same nutritional count. Going with fun-sized options will be better than eating a full-sized bar or serving, says Hultin.

“If you want lower-calorie or lower-sugar candy, there are a few better options,” she says. She recommends Smarties, which have 25 calories and 6 grams of sugar per roll; a fun size Starburst, with only 40 calories and 6 grams of sugar in two candies; or one Twix mini bar, which only has 50 calories and 5 grams of sugar.

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Don’t Deprive Yourself

It's fine to eat candy if it fits into your health and nutrition goals. “Each person needs to balance their health goals with what treats work for them,” says Hultin. Some people have medical conditions or special diets that don't allow added sugar, while others can fit it into their lives.

“I just buy regular Halloween candy. I believe, as a registered dietitian, that all foods can fit into a person's diet,” says Hultin. Just don’t go overboard and only choose your favorites—the ones you really look forward to each year. If Skittles don’t do it for you, and they’re just sitting on the table, there’s no need to eat them. You might also want to speak to your physician to discuss your specific rules when it comes to any added sugar on Halloween.

You can also give yourself, and your kids, a limit for all that leftover candy sitting in the house. “I like to suggest parents let their families enjoy on Halloween but instill a ‘Trick-Or-Two-Treat’ rule of thumb post-October 31 when your house is filled with T-o-T remnants,” says Chicago-based Julie Pappas, RD.

“Put excess candy in the freezer so it’s out of sight and allow yourself to enjoy two pieces of bite-size or individually-portioned candies from your stash if you’re in the mood for a sweet treat,” she recommends.

Or Stock Up on Candies You Don’t Like That Much

If you’re worried about indulging in moderation—some people choose to just cut it out instead—consider buying candies to pass out to trick-or-treaters that you don’t crave. “When I'm shopping, I see what looks colorful and fun—but to be honest, I DO tend to purchase the kind that I don't myself enjoy that much so I'm not as tempted to eat it myself,” says Hultin. Your kids will still eat them and you won’t need to worry about resisting temptation.

Have Fun Without Stuffing Your Face

Halloween is a fun holiday—you can dress up, go trick-or-treating with kids, take photos, carve pumpkins, and decorate your home. It’s not all about the candy. If you remember that sentiment, you’ll feel less limited when you can’t eat much sugar.

“There are so many wonderful aspects of Halloween, aside from candy. Enjoy dressing up, walking outside, carving pumpkins, collecting leaves, attending a haunted house, or going to a party—without the added sugar,” says Hultin. These are fun activities for children and adults alike, and they are fun, memorable ways to celebrate the season.

DIY Your Halloween Treats

If Halloween candy doesn’t seem to fit into your low-sugar diet, you can still find healthier (and still sweet and festive!) treats to fill your belly.

“One thing you can do to enjoy autumn flavors—without any sugar at all—is to indulge in some festive tea. Look for flavors like pumpkin spice, chai, apple cider tea, and cranberry tea for that comforting taste with zero calories and zero sugar,” says Hultin.

If you're hosting a party or taking snacks to school for kids, get creative with Halloween-themed foods, instead. “Little tangerines that look like pumpkins or string cheese disguised as a ghost or even caramel apples—at least there's some healthy, high-fiber apple in there for nutritional value,” she says.

For sweets, try this hack: “I find most recipes too sweet, so I always start with half the sugar and taste it to see if I need to add more,” says Hultin. If you do need more, use banana or applesauce in place of sugar for some natural sweetness, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

You can also whip fruits into fall cupcakes and breads to give people for gifts or to have at parties, which can still offer dessert without tons of added sugar. “There are a lot of fun, creative ways to lighten up Halloween and slash the sugar if you're willing to step outside the candy box and use healthy foods in fun way,” Hultin says.


Healthier Halloween Candy Guide

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you), but all opinions are my own. You can find our full affiliate disclaimer here .

In this article, we're talking about healthier candy options for Halloween! We'll break down which brands are allergen-friendly, share our favorite organic candy brands, and give you a few strategies for how to handle Halloween night.

Here at Fed and Fit, we've always loved Halloween. In fact, we get really excited about celebrating all of the “fringe” holidays like Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. Halloween is especially fun though with the season of scary movies and haunted houses, the opportunity to dress up in a fun costume, carve jack-o-lanterns, and, of course, eat candy!

As a group of nutritionists who must also be gluten-free, we pay a little bit more attention to the candy we eat now than we did when we were kids hauling in pillowcases full of the stuff. Now, don't get us wrong, we are totally pro “eat the candy” (because honestly, sometimes when you want a Reese's, only a Reese's will do) but whether you or your kids need to avoid certain allergens, or if you just want to offer healthier candy options, we wanted to provide a guide to make it a little easier to navigate the candy aisle this season. Below you'll find our favorite healthier candy options, as well as a list of popular candies with notes on which are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and dye-free.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 tbsp sweetener of choice (not xylitol or stevia)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or all-purpose flour, or a combination
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar of choice
  • 1/8 tsp pure stevia extract, or 4 more tbsp granulated sugar of choice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 tbsp melted coconut oil or full-fat (but trans-fat-free) butter-type spread
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp whole-wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar of choice (I like Sucanat here)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • optional, 1/2 cup raisins
  • scant 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • dash salt

Instructions

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls recipe: Warm the milk in a small measuring bowl. You want it warm, but not boiling: if you have a candy thermometer, it should read 110 degrees F. Stir in the 2 tbsp sweetener, sprinkle the yeast on top, and set aside for 5 minutes. During this time, it should bubble up. (If it does not bubble up, either your yeast is no good or your milk was too hot or cold.)

In a large measuring bowl, combine the 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar of choice, stevia, salt, the 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Stir very well.

Stir the melted oil and vanilla extract into the milk mixture, then pour this into the large measuring bowl of dry ingredients and stir to form a dough. Especially if using spelt flour, you may need to add a little extra flour until it’s dry enough to form a dough. Form dough into a ball, then place in a lightly-greased large bowl. Cover loosely with a towel, and set in a warm place to rise 20 minutes or until doubled in size. (If your oven has a “bread proof” setting, this is the perfect place to let your pumpkin cinnamon rolls rise.)

Meanwhile, stir together all remaining pumpkin cinnamon roll ingredients (except the 5 tbsp flour) in a medium measuring bowl. Set aside. Lightly grease a 9吉 baking pan. Set aside.

After the dough has risen, punch dough to deflate. Knead dough with your hands, adding the 5 tbsp flour as you knead so that the dough is not sticking to your hands. Knead 5 minutes. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough into a very thin rectangle. Spread the contents of the medium mixing bowl evenly on top. Carefully roll up the dough, lengthwise, lifting and rolling the dough.

Using a large, sharp knife, slice dough into 13 even rolls, wiping the knife after each cut. The filling may ooze out a bit, but this is okay. Place the rolls in the prepared baking pan, and return to the warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. When it reaches this temperature, place cinnamon rolls in the oven and bake 20 minutes. Glaze with the recipe below:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar or Sugar-Free Powdered Sugar
3 1/2 to 4 tsp milk of choice (or more or less to achieve desired glaze thickness)
Whisk ingredients together to form a glaze. Using a spoon, drizzle evenly over pumpkin cinnamon rolls.


  1. Place butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip until fluffy.
  3. Gradually add powdered sugar and whip several minutes, until light, fluffy and of spreading consistency.

Color frosting with a few drops of food coloring or wild berry sauce.


Tips for Trick-or-Treating During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you decide to pass out candy, this year presents particular challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But while trick-or-treating typically involves interacting with strangers en masse and dozens of kids sticking their hands into candy bowls, it doesn’t have to be a germy nightmare. After all, trick-or-treating is an outdoor event during which it’s not unusual to wear a mask.

In fact, Gary Reschak, a pediatrician at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, tells the Daily Meal that if everyone stays outside, wears a mask, and practices good hand hygiene, both trick-or-treaters and adults handing out candy can safely manage Halloween.

A few best practices can help keep everyone safe this Halloween.

  • Wear an Appropriate Mask. Whether or not you like to dress up to pass out candy, wearing a face mask is essential, as you’ll be interacting with a large number of children and parents. If you do dress up, Reschak advises you to avoid plastic and rubber Halloween masks. They aren’t designed to protect against the new coronavirus, which is spread through respiratory droplets. Instead, wear a surgical or cloth mask. But no worries they’ll ruin your costume. You can easily incorporate protective face masks into many costumes, like health care worker and mummy costumes. You can even buy a cloth face mask with costume-specific faces like animal faces, scary clown faces, and even superhero or villain faces.
  • Stay Outside. Avoid passing out candy at an indoor event or if you live in an enclosed apartment complex. It’s also best to avoid continually opening and shutting your door. If you’re not in a high-risk group for complications from COVID-19, consider sitting outside while maintaining an appropriate 6 feet of distance from the trick-or-treaters. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s less risk of contracting the coronavirus if you’re outdoors than indoors. However, you should still take safety precautions like mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing, and social-distancing. And if you are in a high-risk group but still want to participate, set your candy outside and greet the ghouls from behind the safety of a glass door.
  • Use Plastic Zip-Close Bags to Package Candy. Amaya Husain, a physician in pediatric emergency medicine at John Hopkins who specializes in disaster preparedness for pediatrics, tells the Daily Meal that adults planning to pass out candy should prepackage it in small plastic zip-close bags. That way, the candy itself is protected from germy hands digging through the candy bowl.
  • Only Pass Out Wrapped Candies. It’s long been standard practice already, but only hand out wrapped, store-bought candy — even if you plan to further package the candy in plastic bags. According to Husain, any store-bought wrapped candy should be safe.
  • Use Hand Sanitizer Frequently. Hopefully, trick-or-treaters are carrying hand sanitizer and using it after every stop. But if you want to help encourage the practice, set a pump bottle of sanitizer out for trick-or-treaters to use. While you’re passing out candy, you shouldn’t be touching it or getting close to the trick-or-treaters anyway, but regularly sanitizing your own hands is never a bad idea either.

For more information on how to celebrate Halloween safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, including trick-or-treating, refer to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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The original 1952 recipe

Straight from the advertisement on page 95 of the June 1952 Life Magazine (pictured above), here it is unedited…

Melt ½ cup butter in shallow baking pan. Stir in 1 T. Worcestershire sauce. Add 2 c. Wheat Chex, 2 c. Rice Chex, and ½ c. nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. garlic salt, mix well. Heat 30 minutes in 300 degree F. oven, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool.

Nor is it vegetarian, let alone vegan.

To make gluten free, you can simply skip the Wheat Chex and either double the amount of Rice Chex or do a 50/50 mix of Rice and Corn Chex.

To make vegan – and still hold true to the traditional recipe – is not as simple as you would think.

Sure, there are plenty of dairy free options for butter. But almost every brand of Worcestershire sauce on the market contains fish (anchovies).

You would think you could just walk into a more specialized grocer to buy one that doesn’t, but it’s not that easy.

Whole Foods locations in SoCal are not a sure bet for fish-free sauce. In fact, their selection is so pathetic, at every LA store we’ve checked, they only have two Worcestershire sauce options Lea & Perrins and their brand, both of which contain anchovies.

Though have no fear, we have everything you need to know about which Worcestershire sauces are vegan and GF, as well as where you can buy them.

But let’s be honest… the 1952 version is kind of boring.

Ignoring the artery-busting 1/2 cup of butter for a moment, the rest was a low fat recipe since there were no peanuts, cashews, or almonds.

However what you ate at Christmastime growing may have been called nuts and bolts by your grandma, because it was far more than just spiced cereal.

If you want the pseudo-original or the 2nd iteration, then you will probably want to go for the recipe published on Christmas Eve of the following year.

Daily Journal-Gazette and Commercial-Star (Mattoon, IL) ran this in their newspaper on December 24, 1953, page 10.

Mix 3 sticks margarine, 2 tablespoons garlic salt, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce. Pour over above mixture. Stir thoroughly. Place in oven (250 degrees F.) for 1 ½ hours. You can use 1/2 of the recipe if the above is too large. Or you can ‘can’ it in jars-place in ice box-and reheat. This is easily done by placing over pilot light place on your gas range. Pretzel sticks are not recommended where there are children-lable to get stuck in their throats.

Three sticks of margarine! We don’t even want to know how many calories that was.

A decade later, the Ralston Purina Company ran a very similar recipe in an advertisement. It was published in the December 1963 edition of Better Homes & Gardens, on page 76.

6 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon seasoned salt or 3/8 teaspoon salt

6 cups Chex (mix Wheat, Corn and Rice Chex equally or in any way you like!)

Heat oven to 250 degrees F. 2. Slowly melt butter in shallow pan. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and salt. 3. Add Chex and nuts. Mix until all pieces are coated. 4. Heat in oven 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes. Spread on absorbent paper to cool. Yield: 6 3/4 cups.

Here the ingredients call for the 3 different flavors of cereal rather than Wheat Chex and Corn Chex Rice Chex. They also use “nuts” rather than peanuts. Noticeably absent are the Cheerios, probably because they didn’t want to promote a competitor’s product! Remember, that was before General Mills owned all of these.

The nuts and bolts you remember from your childhood may not be the original Chex Mix recipe from the 1950’s (any of them). It probably was more along the lines of the subsequent variations which continued to get more elaborate.

Why settle for standard mixed nuts when you could jazz it up with Brazil nuts? Why stop at pretzels when you could add bagel chips?

Those variations came about through the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sure, they’re technically not the Chex Mix traditional recipe, but for most of us, they are what we historically ate during the holidays.


Vegan Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

What’s fall without a good seasonal sugar cookie? I’m glad you agree. Onto the dough!

These cookies were inspired by fall, first and foremost, but also by my 1-Bowl Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes!

I overfilled the muffin tins with batter on my first try and quickly realized that the overflow baked perfectly into a sugar cookie-type consistency! In that moment, I knew vegan sugar cookies were not far out of reach.

This recipe is easy and fast! Just 1 bowl, simple methods, and 1 hour start to finish (frosting and all). And they just so happen to taste like the sugar cookies of your youth, just without (real) butter, eggs, or milk. Huzzah!

And what would a sugar cookie be without frosting?

I’ve included a basic vegan buttercream recipe below that’s infused with pumpkin butter and fall spices. It makes the perfect addition to these fluffy gems and sends the pumpkin flavor over the top.

You’re going to love these cookies. They’re:

Tender
Fluffy
Slightly crisp on the edges
Pumpkin-y
Subtly spiced
Perfectly sweet
Amazing with pumpkin buttercream
Satisfying
Simple
& Shareable

What are you waiting for? No seriously?

If you make this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, tweet at us, or take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram!

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HOW TO PAINT YOUR OWN SUGAR COOKIES

1. Make sure the royal icing is completely set and dried before you begin. It is best to let the cookies set out overnight after icing, and paint them the next day.

2. When your royal icing cookies are set and ready to be painted, prepare your workstation by laying a large sheet of wax paper on the counter, and placing the cookies upon it. Have ready your cookie paint and brushes.

3. Before making brush strokes on the royal icing cookies, dip the brush into the food coloring mixture and press the brush against the sides of the bowl to rid of any excess liquid. If this precaution is not made, your paint may run and spread across the cookie.

Hand Painted Cookies may be the easy way out when it comes to decorating, but I can’t imagine we’ll hear any complaints on the matter. It’s quick, it’s easy…it’s stunning. Please, enjoy!

If you’re looking for more festive cookies to give as gifts this year or just another excuse to get into the kitchen and get to baking, here are a few more cookie recipes that absolute must-tries: Chocolate Swirl Pinwheel Cookies, Bite-Sized Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, gluten-free Easy Coconut Macaroons, flavorful Almond Biscotti, and the best-ever Ginger Molasses Cookies!