Want a Healthier Halloween? Indulge in Some Cacao–It’s Good For You!

chocolate-chunks

Have a healthier Halloween by replacing artificial candy with the real deal!

Yes, it’s that time of year. The candy monsters will soon come out of hiding and collectively overindulge in treat feasts and sugar-powered hyperactivity. Yes, it can get a little scary…and we aren’t even talking about bloody zombie costumes.

Let’s be honest for a moment. I LOVE sweets just as much as the next person (and maybe even a bit more). There’s nothing wrong with that. Still, it must be said that there are healthy substitutions that can take the place of artificial, nutritionally deficient candy you find in giant heaps piled up at the store.

I know. It sounds like a scam. But really, if you and your family are going to indulge in some treats this Halloween, might as well make them healthy treats. So why not try some cacao (a.k.a. raw dark chocolate)? Humans—notably, the ancient Mayans and Aztecs—have enjoyed it for thousands of years! Cacao typically comes in two forms: powder (good for smoothies) and nibs (cacao beans). You can also buy it in the form of dark chocolate bars at your local co-op or Whole Foods store (please remember to buy organic whenever possible).

Chew on these Cacao facts:

  • High in antioxidants. Cacao is high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which fight against disease-causing free radicals and promote cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Mood Lifter. Cacao contains tryptophan, an amino acid that raises the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin controls mental states, muscle movements, and the ability to relax and fall asleep. Eating dark chocolate helps to promote a greater sense of wellbeing (as if we didn’t know that already)!
  • Darker is better. If you do buy chocolate, here’s a rule of thumb: the “darker” or higher percentage of cacao, the better. Darker chocolate means a higher amount of flavonoids. Make sure to note the percentage of cacao listed on the package. 60% and higher is best! (Note: the higher the percentage, the less amount of sugar present, thereby yielding an increased bitter taste.)

Yes, cacao is truly chocolate in its finest form. But don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to indulge yourself. Happy (Healthy) Halloween!

See the delicious, quick and easy recipe below from Arielle Fierman:

Healthy “Reese’s” Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients:

2 bags dark chocolate (try for 60% cacao or more)

1-2 cups freshly ground nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew)

Pink Himalayan sea salt (optional)

Directions:

  • Melt chocolate in pan on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally
  • Pour chocolate into cupcake wrappers (eco-friendly or silicone)
  • Spread chocolate up the sides of the wrappers
  • Refrigerate for about 3-5 minutes (until hardened)
  • Place a dollop of nut butter inside cup
  • Sprinkle with pink Himalayan sea salt (if butter is unsalted)
  • Pour rest of melted chocolate on top
  • Refrigerate for about 10 minutes (until fully hardened)

pumpkin-halloween

And for delectable, non-chocolate treats, try these other simple recipes:

And if you’d rather not fuss with the above, check out these healthier candy brands.

And don’t forget alternatives for Trick-or-Treaters:

  • Pre-packaged trail mix
  • Small individual packages of dried fruit
  • Mini bottles of water (hey, got to ensure everyone stays hydrated as they make their neighborhood rounds)
  • School and craft supplies—the possibilities are endless! Try Halloween-themed mini-notebooks, pencils, or stickers (you can even dress up an orange with stickers to make it look like a jack-o-lantern).
  • Party favors – find all sorts of random toy options at discount and dollar stores

What healthier alternatives to artificial candy do YOU use? Please share below!

 

References

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J, Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods: A Comprehensive Guide to the Healing Power of Nature’s Best Medicine. New York: Atria Books.

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