It seems like more foods and ingredients become off-limits by the week: gluten, lactose, peanuts, soy, sugar, carbs, fruit drinks … what’s a party planner to do?
If you’re hosting a party for kids or adults, ask invitees to let you know if they have any food allergies or ingredients they can’t safely eat. If you can’t plan in advance, follow the tips below to make sure you provide healthy — but not boring — snacks and treats this Halloween.
While chocolate in moderation is not unhealthy and even has some healthy nutrients, it contains a chemical that can be dangerous (and even fatal) for pets. Kids love to share treats with their furry friends, so avoid portable chocolate. A chocolate fountain with fresh fruit to dip is a good alternative to processed, store-bought treats.
With a little planning, you can set out a scary smorgasbord of treats that doesn’t contain dairy products, which can cause serious stomach problems for children and adults alike. You can always earmark a section of your table for lactose-free treats, avoiding milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.
No: Sugary candy
Refined sugar is fast becoming one of the main nutritional health problems for children and adults, according to organizations such as the USDA and CDC. Store-bought candy is often the quickest solution when you have lots of trick-or-treaters, but with a little effort, you can provide alternatives that aren’t a let down for kids. Granola and cereal bars can make the perfect alternative. Read the labels of snack bars to find out which ones have the fewest additives, preservatives, sugar and food colorings and buy a few to try before you commit to a bulk purchase.
Yes: Dried fruit
Fruit contains sugar in the form of sucrose, but at least it’s not refined sugar. Dried apricots, dates, apples, oranges, cranberries, figs, raisins and other fruits are a unique treat kids probably won’t get to experience from many other households. Consider individual baggies with several different dried fruits to let kids sample which ones they like, possibly starting a healthy lifelong snack preference.
Nuts are a great source of low-fat protein, but peanuts especially can be dangerous and even fatal. If you know exactly who’s coming to your party and whether or not anyone has a nut allergy, nuts should be OK, but why take the risk? Don’t pass nuts out to trick-or-treaters, by themselves or in candies, since kids don’t always wait to get home to mom and dad before they start eating their goodies.
Gluten-free is the new Atkins. People think it’s a must, but it’s not unless you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease. However, if you don’t want your treats tossed, offer a selection of goodies that don’t contain wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina and graham flour.
No: Sports drinks
You’ll be more dismayed than dazzled by the selection of fruit juices at your grocery store when you start reading the labels. Many are not even close to 100 percent juice, and no matter what the label says, the primary ingredient of many fruit juices is sugary apple or pear juice. Then there are the additives, preservatives, food coloring and high-fructose corn syrup. Stay away from juice boxes and sports drinks and stick with vegetable juices or natural fruit juices.