Providing a snack for a child's classroom is no simple task, especially when it comes to Halloween.
The trick-or-treating itself will result in plenty of candy, so many parents hesitate to send in yet more sweets. Plus, the prevalence of food allergies means you must be especially careful about what you select, whether sweet or savory.
The best bet is something healthy, that avoids the major allergens (such as nuts) and that the kids will still get a kick out of. It sounds like a tall order, but it's actually not that hard.
Healthy foods can be fun when presented the right way. For example, mini jack-o-lanterns can be made by taking a small orange and using the tip of a knife to cut eyes, a nose and a mouth into the peel. Cut just deep enough to expose the white pith.
Or if you like, you can cut off the top of the orange, scoop out the pulp and fill it with chopped pears, apples or dried fruit. If you use pears or apples, toss the pieces with lemon juice (or juice from the pulp of the orange) so they don't turn brown.
Kids love carrot or sugar snap "fingers" that can be dipped in a sauce made by mixing ketchup with an Italian seasoning blend and enough cranberry juice to give it a "bloody" consistency. Provide each child with a small paper cup of sauce.
Make ghoulishly delicious eyeballs by slitting pitted dates along the length and stuffing them with low-fat cream cheese. Use a golden raisin or dried cranberry to make the pupil.
These healthy jack-o-lantern sandwiches are made with whole-grain bread plus low-in-fat sliced deli meat and kid-friendly American cheese to make glowing orange eyes.
Toasting the bread makes it easier to work with when you're cutting out the eyes and mouth.
A simple spread made by combining ketchup and light mayonnaise provides a touch of sweetness kids will love, plus it helps hold the sandwiches together. If you like, you can add pickles or lettuce leaves for an optional vegetable layer.
The sandwiches are formed using a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter. Other shapes also could be used.
HEALTHY JACK-O-LANTERN SANDWICHES
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
32 slices whole-grain or pumpernickel bread, toasted
16 slices (about 1/2 pound) deli ham or turkey
16 slices 2 percent milk American cheese slices (orange)
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and ketchup. Spread some of the mayonnaise mixture on one side of 16 of the slices of bread. Top each of the 16 slices with ham or turkey, then 1 slice of cheese. Top with the remaining slices of toast.
Use a 4-inch pumpkin cookie cutter to cut each sandwich.
Remove the top slice of toast from each sandwich, then use the tip of a paring knife (or a small triangle cutter) to cut out eyes, nose and a mouth. Place the bread back on the sandwich so the orange cheese shows through the holes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 202 calories; 53 calories from fat; 6 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 17 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 3 g fiber; 746 mg sodium.