How to Use Halloween to Get Kids to Eat Better, Not Worse

Frightened of Halloween sugar rush? The desperate struggle to peel your little ghosts and goblins (and superheroes) off the ceiling Halloween night and wrangle the sugar-crazed monsters to bed? Yeah, us too. This year we’ve got some good ideas on how to handle that scary moment.

Feed them a good dinner ahead of time. Keys to balancing that blood sugar spike are protein and fiber. You also want to minimize the amount of any added sugars in that meal — the kids will be getting enough. Avoid carb-heavy foods like pasta and pizza.

Use the Halloween Fun to Make it Healthy! Here’s easy, healthy orange menu for the little ghosts and goblins:

Monster Mash! (Healthful Shepherd’s Pie from page 208 of our book) uses sweet potatoes for added healthy benefits and a fantastic orange color. Extra veggies are in the meat filling, too, which can help offset some of the less nutritious treats later on. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes. Extra bonus? A complete, easy and fast one-dish meal (you can make it ahead!) so you have more time to get the kids ready! Recipe is courtesy of The Cleaner Plate Club by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin, Storey Publishing.

Monster Mash

This revision of an easy, classic “meat and potatoes” recipe uses sweet potatoes and extra vegetables in the meat filling to add flavor and nutrition. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes and offer more nutrients like beta-carotene.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 pound ground beef

{1/4} cup uncooked white rice

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

4 cups mixed frozen vegetables (about 2 packages)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and diced medium (in {1/2}-inch cubes)

{1/4} cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

{1/3} cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about three minutes. Add the ground beef and brown it, about 10-15 minutes until no longer pink. Add the rice, tomatoes, and frozen mixed vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, steam the sweet potatoes until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. You can do this in an electric steamer. Alternatively, fill a large pot with a couple inches of water, set a steaming basket in it, and bring to a boil. Set the sweet potatoes in the basket, cover, and let steam.

4. Let the potatoes cool slightly, then mash them in a large bowl with the milk and butter.

5. Spread the meat mixture in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with the mashed sweet potatoes, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until the cheese melts and the top begins to get golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Serves 8.

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