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Tips for a healthier Halloween

Halloween need not mean handing out sweets full of empty calories. Try these tips for a healthier holiday.

Next Friday night is Halloween. “Who ya gonna call,” as they say in the movie Ghostbusters, and what are you going to do to celebrate? There are plenty of ways to make this year’s holiday both happy and healthy.

If you have children, you are probably already overwhelmed with finding just the right Halloween costume for them. If they are young enough to require a trick-or-treat escort, make the effort to get into the act yourself. Dig out hanks of yarn, shabby old clothes, old bed sheets and anything else you can turn into a costume, and discover how much fun Halloween can be for grown-ups.

Too undignified? Think of the Halloween Parade in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Bystanders have such a good time at this festive celebration that many return the next year, in costume, to join the procession. By now, this exuberantly attired throng has turned this local amusement into a nationally televised media event.

Whether or not you dress up, it is easy to join in the party atmosphere this weekend by serving a menu of foods with Halloween colors and themes.

Easy starters include carrot, sweet potato, or black bean soup, perhaps ladled out of a large pumpkin, or served individually in scooped-out miniature pumpkins.

Black bean chili is a Halloween classic, but also consider grilled salmon accompanied by black bean salsa.

Or, for quick, casual fare, roll up slices of grilled chicken with the salsa in an orange-colored wrap.

Halloween need not mean handing out sweets full of empty calories. Instead give small bags of trail mix, dried fruit, or oatmeal cookies.

In the apartment building where I live, so many parents accompany the little residents that I keep special “power” treats on hand just for them. Based on the familiar squares of puffed rice mixed with melted marshmallows, this healthful version uses whole grain cereal. It is also studded with nuts and raisins. To keep it neat, I hand out these squares individually wrapped in plastic.

Healthy whole-grain 'power' treats
3 cups (half 10-ounce bag) miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 cups puffed whole-grain cereal

1/2 cup whole grain flake cereal

1/2 cup pecans, chopped, or salted roasted soynuts

1/2 cup raisins

Coat a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, letting edges hang over sides of pan. Coat plastic with cooking spray. Coat a wooden mixing spoon with cooking spray and set aside, close to stove.

In large saucepan over medium heat, cook marshmallows and butter until they are melted and start to color, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Take pot off heat.

Using coated spatula, stir in two cereals, nuts and raisins until dry ingredients are well coated with marshmallow mixture.

Turn mixture into prepared pan. Using wet hands, smooth and press mixture into an even layer. (You can also lightly spray your hands with cooking spray to do this.). Set aside to cool. Invert pan over cutting board. Lift off plastic. Using serrated knife, cut into squares, or rectangles about the size of a small candy or power bar.

Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 128 calories, 5 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 21 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 27 mg. sodium.