TORONTO -- Don't get spooked when it comes to getting a healthy meal on the table for your little ghosts and goblins before they head out trick-or-treating.
As soon as it's dark, children are eager to troll the neighbourhood. It's best to send them off with something satisfying and nutritious in their stomachs so they're not as inclined to fill up with candy. But with many parents working, this can create a time crunch on weeknights.
"I think a lot of people will rely on pizza, but there's lots of quick and easy things you can have" that aren't takeout or processed, says Carol Harrison, a registered dietitian in Toronto.
"Certainly you want them to have a satisfying meal even if it's a quick one so they're not famished by the time they come home after running around going trick-or-treating because, let's face it, that's quite active, going up and down the streets and in and out of houses."
The key is to prepare something fun to eat that isn't complicated or time-consuming.
"Breakfast for dinner makes a lot of sense on Halloween night because it's quick, you often have eggs in the fridge anyway even if you're low on groceries, and kids like them and they're easy to prepare and there's so many different things you can do with them."
A big pan of cheesy scrambled eggs can go on toast, in a burrito, in a wrap with salsa, open-faced on an English muffin or piled into a hotdog bun.
Make up a pan of french toast you can bake while helping children get ready. Or bake it ahead, cut it into fingers and pop them in the toaster. A version with peanut butter and banana adds more protein and another food group.
In keeping with the creepy Halloween theme, make a variation on devilled eggs, another great finger food. The eggs can be hard-cooked ahead -- they'll keep for a week in the fridge, Harrison says -- then add avocado to the mashed yolks to turn them green. Top with a slice of black olive or piece of diced red pepper. Have the kids come up with a fun name, like Green Monster Eyes.
"If the child had three or four of those that's an excellent source of protein that's going to help them feel full throughout the night so they're not going to be so tempted to dig into that candy quite as much," says Harrison, who consults about nutrition issues for her company, Citrus.
Since kids will want to dig into their treats right away, parents might want to establish some guidelines for snacking.
First, limit the amount of candy they bring home by putting a boundary on the number of streets they visit.
Have a discussion with kids about their ideas. Often they'll come up with suggestions like saving treats for after meals and brushing their teeth afterward. Talk about how many treats the kids think is reasonable to have at a time or to tote in a lunch bag if they're peanut-free.
"Involving the kids gives them a little bit of power but doesn't mean you can't negotiate and say, 'Well, five is probably too many. How about three?' Compromise and get them thinking about what's reasonable and not all being imposed by their parents," Harrison says.
-- The Canadian Press