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Halloween Party Snacks - easy, homemade, plant-based and refined sugar-free snacks for kids

It's a bit scary that over the years Halloween has become almost synonymous with candy. Even though we dress up in costumes and decorate our houses the whole point always seems to be coming down to trick or treating. While I have nothing against that tradition, (I actually find it really sweet, the way it tends to connect people in communities), I don't love the fact that many kids seem to miss the point of costumes, parties and people coming together and focus solely on accumulating as much candy as possible.

And maybe I wouldn't even have a problem with that if all that candy wasn't mostly highly processed and sugar-filled junk usually manufactured using very unsustainable ingredients such as animal products or palm oil...

And of course there is not that much we can do about it, because Halloween is an extremely popular holiday and it's marketed as one that is all about candy and LOTS of it. So we can't expect everyone to suddenly want to spend more on healthier versions of candy sweetened with fruit or other not-as-processed natural sweeteners that are much better for us than pure white sugar. We can't make people go out of their way to seek plant-based alternatives for their favorite candy, to pass on everything containing unsustainably sourced palm oil, make these treats from scratch or give out fruit and nuts instead... only to see the disappointment on the kids faces.

And no wonder that today's children, so used to everything containing tons of refined sugar, frown and grimace when they get fruit instead of candy. It's long been known that refined sugar acts like a drug in our brain and the more we have it the more we want it and the more both our tongue and our brain become desensitized, meaning that sweet things don't taste sweet unless they are extremely sweet. So of course even the sweetest apple in the world won't taste sweet if we're used to the sweetness level of hard candy made solely of refined sugar. That said, though I look forward to times when vegan, refined-sugar-free and sustainably produced candy is not only widely available, but also equally affordable as the non-vegan sugary stuff I do understand that we still have a long way to go to reach that point. Both in the work we have to do on our mindsets as well as on the way we participate in the consumerist culture of today's world.

I highly encourage you to seek healthier and more eco-friendly alternatives to the mainstream candy and choose that if you are financially (and mentally) able to do so. If you can, have this kind of candy yourself, give it to your kids and give it away as treats on Halloween. But if, for whatever reason, you are not able to do so, there are other ways you can make Halloween celebrations a bit healthier, both for the people and for the planet. One of them is preparing delicious and healthy Halloween snacks. Or better yet showing your kids how fun it can be and having them do all the work:)

So whether you're hosting a Halloween party or you're just in the mood to make a halloween-themed snack, I'd like to share a few extremely simple things you can easily do by yourself or with your kids. Things that are delicious, Halloween'y and require very little preparation and equipment.

Last year I was invited to help out at a kids Halloween workshop and here are some of the things I decided to prepare. To make the smoothie and the hummus you would need to use a blender, but for everything else a knife is all you need in terms of equipment, so you can easily do most of these things outside of the kitchen. And it's also fun to make it into a game and let the kids make or at least decorate (depending on their age) some of the snacks themselves.

Puking Pumpkin

It does sound a little silly, but if you have/know kids you know they love stuff like that.

For the lovely green vomit, if you're able to serve it soon after you make it you can go ahead and make guacamole, but if there is a possibility it will be a while before it's all consumed I suggest going for green hummus instead, (you can make this hummus and just add a handful or two of baby spinach leaves to the blender and a little less water than you would normally add). Getting kids to eat something that's green is hard enough so don't make it harder on yourself by letting the guacamole turn moldy brown while it's lying there waiting to be eaten.

Hollow out a pumpkin and carve out the mouth. Make sure you don't cut too big of a hole when you first cut the top off to hollow out the pumpkin because it'd be good if it's the right size to accommodate a small (or big if your pumpkin is bigger) bowl/glass in which you'll be able to put the carrot sticks.

Add tortilla chips (preferably low oil and sodium, but regular ones will do too).

Make carrot sticks by peeling raw carrots and cutting them lengthwise. You could also add cucumber sticks, celery sticks, and/or other veg like bell peppers. A nice variety of veggie sticks is especially great if you're serving it to teens or adults who will actually enjoy them.

Use a black sharpie to draw the eyes and arrange everything on a large plate or a tray. I didn't have anything large enough so, as you can see, I got creative with what we had.

Frankenstein's Monster - Green Potion

It's basically the simplest, 4-ingredient green smoothie ever (recipe here) and you can also sneak in a little piece of fresh ginger and some more veggies without compromising its sweetness, but because it's green you need to be very mindful of how you make it and how you present it if you want kids to even give it a chance. Most kids will be happy to make it into a Frankenstein's Monster cup, but very reluctant to taste it, so you really need to make it sweet. To make sure that happens, use very sweet fruit, sweet apples, sweet oranges and very ripe bananas and that should be enough. In case your bananas aren't ripe enough and the apples and oranges turn out to be not so sweet you can add a few dates into the blender as well.

You can pour it into a jug or a bowl or better yet, if you happen to have anything resembling a witch's cauldron I bet that would look really fun.

Have one courageous (or more open minded) child try it and let them see how sweet and not-yucky-at-all it is. Once he or she tries and likes it, the rest will follow.

But remember, getting kids to eat green things is a tricky business, so you need to be very careful and present it in a cool way and under no circumstances are you to utter the word "spinach" or "kale", at least until everyone's already tried it and loved it. Otherwise you can forget about getting them to taste it.

Unless of course you've raised veggie-loving kids and in that case I applaud you. You can even invite them to make that smoothie with you from scratch:)

If you're confident your kids won't fuss too much about the ingredients, you may also try this green smoothie that, I swear, tastes super sweet and not at all like you'll think it would after seeing the ingredient list:).

Mandarin Jack-o'-Lanterns

Here you can use any type of mandarin you have, be it tangerines or clementines, you could also use regular oranges.

You can use the peeled mandarins and add a little part of the leafy top of the celery stalk, or a leaf of fresh coriander, rosemary or parsley for the pumpkin stem.

If you opt for the not-peeled version you can have the kids paint Jack-o'-Lantern faces on the unpeeled fruits.

This is a really cool way of making faux Jack-o'-Lanterns when you can't use pumpkins. In our case we didn't have enough adults to supervise the carving + it would also take a bit too much time. Using a marker on a mandarin (or even on a pumpkin for that matter) is a simpler and safer idea that could be a nice substitute for the traditional pumpkin carving.

Banana Ghosts

All you need is bananas and something to make the faces. Here we used dairy-free dark chocolate chips as I couldn't get completely sugar-free vegan ones, but I figured it's just for the eyes and the mouth so it can't hurt to use the 60% chocolate.

Apple Slice Jack-o'-Lanterns

These apple slice Jack-o'-Lanterns are done by slicing apples to make a kind of 2D shape of a pumpkin and carving the faces with a knife (even a reusable plastic knife) or even toothpicks. The middle parts of the apples will be best for this, but if your kids aren't too picky you might get away with using the slices further away from the apple's core. You can use peanut butter or other nut or seed butters to cover the surface of the "face" and then have kids decorate it with various kinds of sprinkles made from crushed or whole nuts and seeds.

Creepy Apple Monster Heads/Mouths

Slice your apple into wedges about a quarter or 1/8 of an apple big, depending on the apple size. Cut out a smaller wedge inside of each piece- that would be the mouth opening and let the kids do the rest:) You can use sunflower seeds for teeth, raspberry or strawberry jam for blood, if you have some fresh or frozen strawberries you can also make the tongue out of a strawberry slice.

You can use blueberries or grapes and toothpicks to make eyes. But you can also use the chocolate chips for that. This is just a suggestion, so keep in mind that, as you can see below in the pictures of the kids' creations, the possibilities are endless.

Other Creepy Fruit Creatures

Provide the kids with a couple of initial ideas (like the ones described above), give them some toothpicks, different kinds of fruit and let them make their own creations! Any fruit, along with nuts and seeds would be great here. The best thing about this is that you don't need to worry about getting it all perfectly neat, because the more messy a fruit creature looks the more gross and creepy it is, and that's perfect for Halloween!

Here are some of the creations the kids made during our workshop last year:


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