Healthy Halloween Dinner

The real trick for the night? Getting those small ghouls to eat a healthy dinner before they begin pounding the pavement with treat bags and plastic pumpkins in hand.

Ghosts, goblins, princesses and superheroes are getting ready to hit the streets Halloween night. Doorbells will chime and a chorus of “Trick or treat!” will fill the air.

But the real trick for the night? Getting those small ghouls to eat a healthy dinner before they begin pounding the pavement with treat bags and plastic pumpkins in hand. Let’s face it — if their stomachs are full before they go off in search of sweet treats, they are less likely to make a meal out of their collected candy.

“Food is fuel. Giving your children a hearty meal before heading out the door will provide the energy they need to have a fun-filled Halloween night,” says Kim Cooley, registered dietitian with Norton Healthcare. “Also, be sure to check your children’s candy before they devour those sweets. Along with the safety aspect, you can divide it into servings to help control too much consumption of empty calories.”

Although my trick-or-treaters are all grown up, we still like to celebrate. They will show up to help hand out candy, and I am still faced with rushing home to prepare a meal and feed a hungry crew before the bewitching hour.

My kids are now 25 and 21, but the tricks I used when they were very young still work today:

  • Make-ahead soups and chili. Use your favorite recipe and freeze it. I put it in the refrigerator to thaw before I leave home that morning, and individual servings can be quickly microwaved.
  • Ghostly grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. I use Halloween cookie cutters to make shapes out of the bread.
  • Spaghetti. I use sauce from a jar, then add smashed peas or grated carrots. It’s a sneaky way to get vegetables into finicky ghosts and goblins.
  • Pizza. Buy a premade crust and add a layer of vegetables before you add sauce and cheese. I would sneak in carrots, spinach, celery or peas, prepared the night before.
  • Breakfast for dinner. It’s quick and easy. Raisins and blueberries make great jack-o’-lantern faces on a pancake.

Casseroles also are easy meals that you can prepare ahead of time. This one tastes similar to chicken noodle soup. It can be made quickly and is something kids will enjoy. The recipe is courtesy of Norton Healthcare registered dietitian Kim Cooley.

Easy Chicken Noodle Casserole

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, green beans, corn, peas)
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
3 ounces (1 1/2 cups) medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Stir together the soup, milk, vegetables, chicken, noodles, Parmesan cheese and black pepper in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish.
  2. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir the casserole and sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.

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