“Health-o-ween”

Halloween remains my least favorite holiday of the year.

It all starts out innocently enough in what I like to call the “primary years” of Halloween. As a child I have very fond memories of these years; a half day of school complete with class parties and a costume parade, my parents throwing a Halloween party for our family and friends where my dad would get dressed up in the most elaborate and funniest costumes, and finally, trekking through the neighborhood, collecting a huge pillowcase full of candy, sorting and eating it, and getting to stay up “late.” Congratulations, young child, you have now hoarded enough processed junk to have a piece in your lunch box every day and a piece after dinner every night until Thanksgiving. Halloween is like a child’s dream.

But then things take a turn for the worse; the “awkward years” of Halloween begin. You know you’re too old to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, but your parents deem you too young to go to a party. I spent a year or two hanging out, watching my little sisters dress up, and answering the door for trick-or-treaters, all while trying not to get candy stuck in my braces.

And then the “partying years” begin and Halloween goes from eating processed junk to drinking processed junk. The costumes also make a 180 turn and go from adorable to inappropriate. I never really cared for this side of Halloween and it only got worse during college because my least favorite day turned into my least favorite week, as wearing and admiring scantily clad outfits and binge drinking is like a college kid’s dream. I avoided it the best I could and would succumb to one night of this nonsense by throwing on a festive hat and having a few cocktails but could never really get into it. I think Halloween may be one of the reasons I graduated early, but unfortunately I’ve heard this type of behavior continues through the postgrad years.

As I have become more and more health conscious I’ve gone full circle with my Hallohatred. Yes, I am still not a fan the “awkward years” and the “partying years,” but after reading this story last year about how one women is handing out “fat letters” to overweight and obese kids instead of candy, my feelings about the “primary years” of Halloween have even changed. Sure, this woman may have been wildly offensive and inappropriate, but she raises a good point. Are we simply feeding into one of the biggest problems our country faces by celebrating this holiday?

And in more recent times, as I have become more educated on the effects of childhood obesity, passing out copious amounts of processed sugar to kids is sending the wrong message. Needless to say Halloween is not a very healthful holiday, no matter what age you are. Although other holidays have unhealthful habits attached to them, such as eating too much on Thanksgiving and drinking too much on New Years Eve, I can find the good in those experiences, such as family time and resolutions. But Halloween remains a bit more of a challenge to find the good in.

Luckily, I have found it. By re-“vamping” some Halloween treats, I have turned Halloween in Health-o-ween. As my culinary skills and my health consciousness have increased, every Holiday is a reason to get into the kitchen and cook up some nutrients. From vegan fajitas on Cinco de Mayo to butternut squash hummus on Rosh Hashanah, holidays are a great excuse to break out your culinary best and attempt to get family and friends on the healthy eating bandwagon. Halloween is no exception.

This year, I made “Caramel Apples.” A 100% whole food, plant based treat that tastes like the real deal. I was inspired to make this recipe after listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast featuring Chef AJ, this episode touched on turning the focus of Halloween for kids more on creative costumes and fun games, rather than candy. Of course, not even Health-o-ween would be complete without some sort of treat so that’s where the “Caramel Apples” come in.

The recipe involves using soaked medjool dates and water for the “caramel,” apples (I used Honey Crisps) and a variety of crunchy toppings (I went with crushed peanuts.)

Stick a popsicle stick in an apple, slather on the date purée and roll it in the crushed peanuts, and you have a delicious, all natural, refined sugar free Health-o-ween treat. No tricks here.

You can find the original recipe here.

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However you decide to celebrate this year, have a Happy Health-o-ween!

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