4 Green Halloween Treats Your Kids Will Love

Green HalloweenHalloween doesn't have to be scary for parents if you stick to a few simple rules: clean ingredients. No artificial stuff. Nutrient-rich where possible, without sacrificing taste or fun. And mindful of the impact on the planet. .

That said, here are 4 green Halloween treats that I am loving this season, broken down by category depending what you're looking for. Have others you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear from you!

. justins peanut butter cups1) If You Crave: Classic Candy, but clean and green Try This: Justin’s Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cups

Why It’s a Green Treat: If you are looking for a cleaner, greener version of a beloved candy, Justins’ your man. Justin's peanut butter cups have 2 important third party certifications that give you the trust and transparency you want in your treat: USDA certified organic ingredients, and Rainforest Alliance Chocolate. Plus, that dark chocolate and real peanut butter may even give you a smidgen of health benefits while your tastebuds are going gaga.

 

YumEarth2) If You Crave: Easy to Find, Affordable Organic Treat Try This: YumEarth Lollipops

Why it’s a Green Treat: I actually adore lollipops for Halloween, because they deliver a pop of color, taste and fun, but can have surprisingly modest sugar and calorie levels: One organic YumEarth pop has a scant 24 calories, just over 5 grams of sugar (a bit more than a teaspoon) and are colored with natural fruit, vegetable and root extracts instead of scary artificial stuff. And they satisfy all dietary walks of life: they are soy-dairy-peanut-gluten- free, vegan. They are also a great way to provide organic treats on a limited budget: no need to hit a pricey grocery store to stock up on YumEarth Organic as you can find them at Walgreens nationwide.
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Pistachios3) If You Crave: Good For You, But Fun Too Try This: POM Pistachios

Why it’s a Green Treat: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American consumes about 25 pounds of candy a year-with a hefty bite of that coming from Halloween. If you want to sidestep sugary treats all together it’s now easier than ever to do that but still feel fun, thanks to the mini-sized (1 oz.) pack of Wonderful Pistachios. Instead of a long list of ingredients, there’s just a single, nutrient rich food inside that is plant based. And it comes in a fun “spooky” green and black package that will have kids feeling the Halloween love. And the nutritional creds are impressive: at just 80 calories you get loads of heart healthy fat, 3 grams protein and 2 grams fiber to keep your munchkins fueled with clean energy for all those Halloween activities. Bonus? Leftovers can power your child as a healthy, hearty snacks as long as they last.

Veggie Gos4) If You Crave: Fitting in Fruits and Veggies Try This: Organic Veggie Go's

Why it’s a Green Treat: Want to get a serving of fruits or veggies into your child’s Halloween haul-that is, one that they will actually eat? While we all know that handing out fresh fruit is a no no- (and for my kids, at least, dried fruits like raisins that they see in their lunch boxes feel suspiciously like mom trying to make Halloween healthy) -these organic fruit and veggie strips are super delicious and fun. Made with whole organic fruits and veggies-some of the most eco-friendly foods on the planet- and no added sugars-and with some fresh flavor combos (including Cinnamon Spiced Beet, Carrot Ginger Apple, and Mountain Berry Spinach)-the ingredient lists are super clean, and deliver an excellent source of antioxidants (such as beta carotene) and vitamin A. But my guess is that your little gobblins may be to busy gobbling them to notice.
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For additional tricks and tips to healthy Halloween treats, check out my other Halloween blog: 4 Tricks to a Healthy Halloween (With a Bit of Green, Too).

Chat with Kate and the ClifKid ZParents!

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Chat with Kate and the ClifKid ZParents this Wednesday!

Join me and fellow ClifKid ZParents for a special chat on the ClifKid's Facebook page:

October 16th, 9:00am PST/12-noon EST

ClifKid ZParents, Steph Morgan of Modern Parents, Messy Kids; Zina Harrington of Let's Lasso the Moon, and I will be joined by very special guest, Monica Potter, star of NBC's show Parenthood, and mom of three.

We will host a 90-minute chat with all of you about festive, creative family fun for the holiday season. Join us for great prizes and a great discussion!

Check out the flier below for more information about this upcoming chat:

ClifKid ZParents

Arsenic in Organic Baby Foods: Duped by the Organics Promise?

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A new study from Dartmouth University is making many moms pause and wonder if perhaps they have been duped by the promise of organics. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives  tested a total of 17 infant and toddler formulas, 29 cereal bars, and 3 energy shots for the presence of arsenic.  One ingredient in particular - organic brown rice syrup (OBRS)- seemed to be the common culprit, as products that contained OBRS contained up to 12 times the EPA’s safe drinking water limit for arsenic. Organic brown rice syrup is a commonly used sweetener (and carbohydrate source)  in organic foods, and is viewed by many as a healthier alternative to high fructose corn syrup. In the study, researchers found that the two toddler formulas containing OBRS as a primary ingredient had arsenic levels more than 20 times greater than the formulas that didn’t contain OBRS. The cereal bars and energy drinks containing OBRS also had significantly higher levels of arsenic than those bars and shots without the ingredient.  Arsenic is known to affect brain development in children (who, because of their rapid growth and development are particularly susceptible to the toxin), and may increase the risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

What Does This Tell Us About Organics?

To be sure, headlines like “High Arsenic Levels Found in Organic Foods, Baby Formula” touches (or rather, stabs) at every mother’s soft spot and fear factor.  As a mother of two young children myself, the idea of arsenic in anything is at once terrifying and maddening, especially when it comes to our little ones. Many of us feel particularly irked by a finding like this if we’ve parted with our hard earned cash for organics in the belief that it’s a better choice for us and our children.

While the research is indeed newsworthy, here’s how I see the key takeaways.

Takeaway #1:  This story is about rice.

This study did not find that organic brown rice syrup contained more arsenic than conventional brown rice syrup. So the wrong conclusion would be something like “see, I knew organics weren’t any better!” or “shoot, does this mean organic is just as ‘bad’ as conventional?”.

What this study does do is highlight the fact that rice, because of how it likes to grow, can be a source of inorganic arsenic (“inorganic” in this case refers just to the chemical structure of the arsenic, not the USDA Organic certification program).  You see, rice plants like to absorb silica from the surrounding environment, which helps it stand up in waterlogged soil. The problem? Apparently arsenic looks a lot like silica to the rice plant, and is also absorbed to varying degrees depending on the rice variety (brown rice typically contains higher levels than white rice because the arsenic stays in an outer layer which is removed with polishing). To me, the takeaway is that we need to address lingering arsenic in our soil from past agricultural or industrial practices, especially when we are growing molecule-grabbing crops like rice. That we need a federal program to test arsenic levels in our food and beverages (see Takeaway #4). Or that if maybe (for now) it’s wise to limit products with brown rice syrup (including OBRS) listed as a primary ingredient until we have more information.

Takeaway #2:  Organics are still the best choice for you and your family.

Part of the clash in the “organic vs. conventional” debate comes in defining what we mean when we say  “better”.  While the science on the absolute nutritional benefits is still being established  (The Organic Center has the latest science here), when I personally use the word “better”, I mean that because organics protects you from added hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, irradiated food, potentially harmful pesticides and more (Stonyfield has a helpful list of specific differences between conventional and organic here ).  I believe you should buy organic as much as you can afford to-especially with key purchases like meat and dairy products, plus produce on “the Dirty Dozen” list. To help you, here are my tips to buy organics on a budget .

Takeaway #3: Organics are not immune to laws of nature.

Alas, just as organics isn’t immune to the laws of dieting (organic ice cream is still loaded with saturated fat and calories, for example, and organic candy bars are still candy bars), organic plants must still subscribe to Nature’s laws.  This study offers a good reminder that organics doesn’t automatically mean “safe”, but is a system like any other, that still needs to continually strive forward in best practices.

Takeaway #4: It’s time for federal regulations on arsenic in our food and beverages. 

Most of us are shocked to think that there are currently no US regulations regarding arsenic levels in food or juice. Hopefully, that’s set to change. Earlier this month, two U.S. Representatives introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set safety standards for arsenic and lead in juices within 2 years.  (Shortly after Dr. Oz broke a controversial story last year about arsenic in apple juice, Consumer Reports issued its own findings: of 88 apple and grape juice samples tested, 10% had arsenic levels that exceeded federal standards.