Scrumptious Caramel Popcorn - For a Healthier Halloween October 29 2015 by Simone Denny

Hello there, 

Well it's halloween weekend coming up and Australia seems to be embracing it more than ever. I remember when I was 17 and an exchange student in Canada I took the girls in my family out trick and treating. The houses we fabulously decorated, the costumes were wonderful but what blew my mind was that each child came home with a pillow slip full to the top with sugary sweets (and I assume they ate them). 

So now as a food conscious parent I ask myself how do I handle this sugar fuelled national event? The answer is (for me personally) it will done in moderation rather than not at all. My kids absolutely love dressing up and the idea of being out the community with other friends doing fills them (and me) with excitement. Last year my daughter chose a couple of things from the halloween sweet collection and rest magically disappeared, there wasn't any further discussion needed. I can only hope another year on that it will be the same. 

My lovely friend Monique from the Nourished Psychologist told me she buys back the sweets from her kids (which are then given out to other halloween visitors) and the kids can choose to buy something they want buy. I love this idea - recycle the sweets and kids get to choose something else they value. 

Healthier Caramel Popcorn with Pecans and Coconut

I did a little digging into what's in many store bought caramel corn and I can't say I was surprised at concoction of strange and not so wonderful things in there. This inspired to make my own healthier version - it is so incredibly moorish.  It makes a perfect halloween treat and in this house it makes a great world cup rugby snack too  - especially this weekend with Australia and New Zealand in the final (we're kiwis what can I say #obessedwithrugby).

Ingredients you are likely to find in most store bought Caramel Corn 
According to the Foodfacts website Crunch and Munch Caramel corn gets and 'F' rating for it's healthiness - jeepers that is bad :( The number one ingredient in this traditional caramel corn is high fructose corn syrup , which is highly processed sugar produced from cornstarch and it is said to be major contributor to the growing obesity levels. There are approximately 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving of crunch and munch (just as an example).

Trans fats are another ingredient in caramel corn that you want to avoid. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is one example of a trans fat you will find in this food. To make this oil, hydrogen gas to be pumped into the soybean oil changing the nutrient profile (for the worse) and making it into a trans fat which the body cannot break it down. Trans fats are said to interfere with the bodies metabolic processes, which can raise bad cholesterol possibly cause heart disease. Europe leads the world in eliminating trans fats, the US is moving to eliminate transfers over the next 3 years. In Australia there is no requirement for food products to signal that they contain trans fats so many consumers don't even know they are eating them. 

Sodium Benzoate is another controversial additive often found in caramel corn. Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative to help extend shelf life. When in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin c) it can form chemical benzene which is know to cause damage at the DNA cellular level (by blocking oxygen to the cells).  

Why this Caramel Popcorn is healthier...

Firstly you won't find any corn syrup, trans fats, preservatives and artificial flavours here. Instead I have added some nutrient dense ingredients that add the nutritional profile of this snack. The Tahini, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds mean this caramel corn is high in calcium, vitamin E and B vitamins. Plus the coconut (oil and flakes) and nuts make this a high energy snack with good fatty acids. 

Healthier Caramel Popcorn with Pecans and Coconut

Happy Halloween everyone! 

Much love