Low-fat, low-cal treats that scream Halloween

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Dust off your party mask and get out your goody bag. Halloween is celebration time. If you think all the ghouls and goblins infesting the neighborhood are children, look again.

Halloween is the year's third-biggest party day, after New Year's (Eve and Day) and Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Halloween Association. It may be one of the few celebrations that adults and children enjoy together. You can launch your festivities on Oct. 31 with late afternoon trick-or-treating for younger children and meet at someone's house for an evening of dinner and games, suggests Anne Lee of Huntington.

"We have soups or stews simmering on the burner. When children come in from their rounds, we serve them," said Lee, mother of three school-aged children. "When our children were younger we used to have moms come over in the afternoon. Now that the kids are older, we have evening parties. Our husbands are around and we do fun, easy things together," said Lee, executive sales director of Open Invitations, a company that promotes easy party ideas.

Halloween menus can be challenging. You and your family could use a break from all the candy coming into the house, yet you're looking for foods that are fun and festive. Although you may not want to offer a low-calorie, low-fat menu, you can choose foods that are lower in sugar and fat and more healthful than the usual fare.

"You don't have to go with junk food to be creative," said Therese Franzese, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at the Sports Club at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. "Part of the fun with Halloween food is increasing the sensation. You can make all kinds of fun punches and snack foods."

On the theory that the more disgusting the food is, the better, Franzese suggests bloody popcorn. "Make microwave or a low-fat, low-salt popcorn and mix it with a little red food dye paste and grated Parmesan cheese. It looks neat and it's fun," she said.

"Use metal cookie cutters to cut Halloween shapes from red bell peppers. Serve with a dip sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. You're still getting vegetables," Franzese said.

Instead of serving just a highly sweetened beverage, the dietitian suggests offering a punch that combines ginger ale and apple cider. Mountain Dew, with its "nuclear green" color is a good base for fruit drinks, she said.

Pumpkin smoothies are a refreshing option that children and adults like, Franzese said. Her recipe is a combination of apple juice concentrate, milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla yogurt and spices. "This drink is so satisfying, partygoers are less likely to fill up on empty-calorie foods," she said.

If you're serving a sit-down meal, Franzese recommends rack of lamb. It's fitting to give guests bones to gnaw on.

For a buffet, you may prefer Lee's soup and stew idea. Choose chicken, noodle and vegetable soup or beef and barley soup using lean round steak for the base. Either keep the soup on low heat on the stovetop or spoon into a slow cooker for the table.

Desserts can be simple, slimy or both. Lee likes apple treats, such as apple slices dipped in cinnamon sugar. She puts out a platter of apple slices with toothpicks for holding and a bowl of sugar mixed with a little cinnamon and allows children to help themselves.

Caramel dipping sauce for apples is also popular in her household. "I've noticed that kids just eat the coating from caramel apples, so a dip that encourages them to eat the apple could be more nutritious," said Lee.

Franzese suggests a wormy gelatin mold. "Use Jell-O. It's low-calorie and has no fat. Prepare it according to package directions and put it in a fun mold. Arrange gummi worms in the mold or place the worms on a platter and unmold the gelatin over the worms. Have the worms stick out. It's really gross," she said.

If you're serving only adults you can add a shot of vodka to the mold, omitting an equal amount of water, said Franzese.

Here is an adaptation of the pumpkin smoothie recipe.

Pumpkin Smoothies

1 (12-ounce) can frozen apple juice concentrate, unthawed

1 cup fat-free milk

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (see note)

1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

6 ice cubes

In a blender combine apple juice concentrate, milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla yogurt, cinnamon and ginger. Add ice cubes. Puree until mixture is frothy and apple juice concentrate is broken up into drink. Pour into chilled glasses.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Do not use pumpkin for pie filling. It's presweetened and seasoned.

For each serving: 160 calories; 2 g. protein; 34 g. carbohydrate; 1.5 mg. cholesterol; 56 mg. sodium; and 1 g. dietary fiber.

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