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Yes, you can have a “healthy” Halloween

It is hard to believe that October is upon us and Halloween is right around the corner. Living in Southwest Georgia usually means there are plenty of warm days still ahead of us and plenty of time for outside play and fun Halloween activities.

We all know that if you ask kids about Halloween, you will get two answers: candy and costumes. This, in all honesty, is really what Halloween is all about. As I have mentioned in my previous columns, you can have your cake, candy, cupcakes and other sweets ... just in moderation.

Well, moderation is something that truly needs to be taken into consideration during this time of the year. Halloween seems to kick off a few months of holidays and overindulgence. But if you start off on the right foot now, it will only make it easier as the weeks go by. Then when January 1st rolls around, you won’t have to center your News Year’s Resolution on cutting back on what you eat or starting the exercise program you gave up a few months ago.

Let’s begin with what you can do to bring a healthy twist to Halloween. Of course we are all going to eat a few more chocolate bars or a few more candy corns than we normally would, but just a few is not going to do any harm. Like I said, moderation is the key.

One way to ensure that you don’t have candy around for weeks is to enlist your kids in operation candy buyback. There are many programs out there that will actually trade your candy in for cash or other incentives. One such program is called Halloween Candy Buyback. In this program, you need to collect all your candy and bring it to a participating dentist and they will buy your candy back and send it to the troops overseas. You can find more information about this program at http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/; the closest participating dentist is in Tifton (Tift Regional Dental Group). If you don’t live close to Tifton or do not have the means to get there, you can personally send your candy donations to the troops overseas. More information on this program can be found at http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/actionguide/how-collect-halloween-candy-our-troops.

This is not only a great way to ensure your kids don’t get overloaded with too much candy, but also a wonderful way to give something back to people that are fighting for our families freedom on a daily basis. Not to mention the lesson in giving and sharing it can teach your kids.

Of course, Halloween would not be complete without a pumpkin glowing on your front porch. Carving a pumpkin and/or decorating a pumpkin are great family activities that not only can bring out a kid’s imagination and creativity, but also provide some yummy snacks.

A truly health snack can be made from the pumpkin. Pumpkin seeds have numerous health benefits, such as a great source of zinc and magnesium, and also offer the benefits of an anti-inflammatory. For more information on the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, please go to http://www.bewellbuzz.com/nutrition/pumpkin-health-benefits/.

Simply rinse and wash the seeds after you remove them from the pumpkin and then pat them dry. Toss the seeds with olive oil or olive oil spray and salt and spread them on a baking sheet (lined with tin foil) and bake for 15 minutes (or until golden brown) at 375 degrees. You can add a little variation to your pumpkin seeds by removing them after 10 minutes and tossing them with one of the following: zesty — 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. sugar, pinch of cayenne and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce; cheesy — 2 tsp. parmesan cheese, 1 tsp. onion powder and pinch of cayenne; cinnamon sugar — 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. nutmeg.

These are all yummy and healthy snack options for this time of the year. Since we are talking about pumpkins, pumpkin puree can now be found in your local grocery store and can add a healthy punch to many foods. Just like the seeds, the flesh (puree) has numerous health benefits, too. It is a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium and fiber. A few simple ways to get pumpkin into your diet are adding it to oatmeal or chili or add it to a cream sauce for pasta.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to have a truly “healthy” Halloween.

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).