Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Crafty autumn meal ideas to entice friends and family

October presents lots of opportunities to be crafty with food.  Especially when it comes to Halloween-themed recipes, everything from orange carrots and purple eggplants to pumpkin bread and chocolate bat-shaped cookies becomes festive.

To entice family members young and old this season, craft up some festive recipes of your own.  Aim to focus on nutrient-rich ingredients, rather than only the traditional high sugar treats usually affiliated with Halloween.

Consider festive lunchbox items and bowls of colorful produce at home.  If you display healthful foods on festive plates and in attractive, seasonally-appropriate bowls, you may get more takers.  For instance, a bowl of green apples would look perfect in a black and white skeleton bowl; a bunch of purple grapes and figs would seem more inviting on a ceramic pumpkin plate.

Eye appeal may be the key to encouraging your family and friends to eat more healthfully.  And, yes…you, as well!

Take advantage of the décor at places like Hallmark and Target.  Everything from the tablecloth or placemats to the cups and mugs can make a dining table more inviting, thus helping to promote family meals.  Even something as simple as printed seasonal napkins or a centerpiece with fall foliage, flowers or fruit is a step up from boring!

Consider serving kids milk in Halloween straw cups or tumblers.  Offer hot tea to adults in pumpkin-shaped mugs.  And, if you buy an affordable set of plates per holiday, it can certainly make a meal more eye-catching.

When it comes to actual meal ideas, look to seasonal print and online magazines for great ideas.  For instance, a plain sandwich looks a lot more delicious to a child when you use a holiday cookie cutter to cut it into a shape.  Great cookie cutter options for October include cats, bats, pumpkins, ghosts and stars.  If you plan to make a bat sandwich, opt for dark whole grain bread like pumpernickel.  If you make a ghost, go for whole grain white bread.

For breakfast, consider making your own spiced granola and storing in a glass canister next to your bowl of bananas – it makes a great idea for breakfast with a bowl of Greek yogurt.  Plus, you see it on the counter, so it is more difficult to forget to eat breakfast!

Or, make pumpkin bread with extra veggies or fruits in it.  Carrots, raisins, apples and zucchini all can be baked into a delicious pumpkin quick bread.  Slice individual slices and wrap in plastic wrap.  Set them on the counter next to the bowl of fruit.  Keep milk boxes or yogurt handy in the fridge.

Think bake sale.  Remember what you used to like to buy at bake sales growing up?  Was it the plain-looking cookie or rice krispie treat or the one in colored plastic wrap with a ribbon?  Same rules apply now – to grownups and kids alike.  Prep foods ahead of time and store in decorative baggies or packages.  Especially do this for non-dessert items, to create interest in those nutritious snacks, too!

The possibilities are as endless as your creativity.   Anything that brings family and friends together this autumn for healthful food and drink is certainly well worth the effort, indeed!



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