Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. That means many youngsters will spend the entire day gearing up for trick-or-treating, while mothers try to put something healthful into their bodies before the witching hour strikes.
Muffins can be the perfect snack for children to enjoy before they set out for their Halloween haunt--although muffins have been much maligned by adults who consider them to be tiny glorified cakes loaded with fat, calories or both.
But muffins do have a place in the diet of a growing child. Like other foods on an adult's list of "no" foods, they can be a good choice for between-meal snacks because of the extras they provide that children need to thrive.
Different Criteria for Kids
Unfortunately, many parents have become so concerned about advice to lower fat and calories for optimum health, they are placing dangerous restrictions on their children's diets. Often this means excluding foods they believe place the child in peril of coronary heart disease--although a child's activity level and rate of growth gives them an entirely different list of criteria for determining safe fat levels.
"As a pediatrician, I'm concerned about stringent dietary restrictions for children who do not have elevated blood cholesterol," said Dr. Harry Green, head of clinical nutrition research at Vanderbilt University's medical center, at a recent Dairy Council of California press conference in Newport Beach.
He explained that the number of parents who actually understand the American Heart Assn. recommendations for safe fat and cholesterol intake levels and can apply that knowledge to their children's diets (in terms of sensible food choices) are few.
Most parents, he contends, have gone overboard with today's guidelines, which call for a reduction of dietary fat from the current 40% level to 30%. As a result, parents may be depriving their children of vital nutrients that they need to grow.
"Most parents need substantial education concerning appropriate food choices to ensure nutrition for optimal growth and at the same time comply with recommendations of the American Heart Assn.," Greene said. "(Parents) read or hear from a variety of sources that they should cut saturated fats and cholesterol in their children's diets, and the first things eliminated are dairy products, red meats and eggs," he said.
Instead, Greene suggests that parents take a comparative study of the foods their children eat during a week's time instead of computing foods on a meal by meal basis. This way, it is possible to ensure that children get those vitamins and minerals needed for adequate growth and development, but they can still choose from a whole variety of foods.
"Generally, children can eat a little bit of everything," Greene explained. "An occasional high-fat food, as long as it isn't eaten every day, is within the levels recommended by the academy," he said.
A Better Alternative
The muffin recipes suggested here, compared with some typical children's snacks, fare well. The key is to select wholesome ingredients like whole grains, nuts and fruits as the foundation and build from there, giving children the sweet treat they desire and still providing nutrients for growth.
One cream-filled snack cake, for example, plain or chocolate, can carry as many as 150 to 256 calories each and contain between six and 10 grams of fat; yet they offer less than a trace of the Recommended Daily Allowance for most vital nutrients.
Instead, offer a muffin made from whole grains, a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of milk for the afternoon snack on Allhallows Eve. Then, sit back with a strong toothbrush in hand and wait for your goblins to return with their Halloween goodies.
2 cups buttermilk baking mix
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine baking mix, raisins, pumpkin, nuts, sugar, milk, oil, cinnamon and egg in bowl. Mix just until blended. Pour batter into 12 paper-lined muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from pan immediately. Makes 12 muffins.
PER SERVING: 166 calories; 3 gm protein; 24 gm carbohydrate; 7 gm fat; 270 mg sodium; 102 mg potassium.
USRDA Protein 04% Riboflavin 06% Vitamin A 10% Niacin 05% Vitamin C 01% Calcium 02% Thiamine 08% Iron 06% LEMON GROVE WALNUT MUFFINS
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Combine sugar and butter in mixer bowl. Beat with mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at time, then beat in yogurt, lemon zest, baking soda and nuts. Combine flours and add to creamed mixture gradually mixing until well blended. Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 servings.
PER SERVING: 328 calories; 7 gm protein; 36 gm carbohydrate; 19 gm fat; 206 mg sodium; 157 mg potassium.