I love Halloween because it represents the beginning of a period of many different celebrations and much fun that continues to the end of the year.
It’s a time of many family and friendship gatherings, celebrating our blessings, laughing, sharing our good fortune, as well as dressing up, twinkling lights, the beginning of fall, cozy sweaters and time in front of a fire.
However, despite the numerous ways to celebrate outside of food and treats, we put most of the emphasis on the sugar feasting and on having excess and this is what we teach our children. The more sweets you collect the better!
Whilst not wanting to be the Negative Nancy at the party, I challenge you to think about the treats you choose. The sugar and processed foods that are always presented to us on the end aisles of the super market shelves. The ones shouting at us to buy them because they are festive and fun, and our kids will love them. The ones that are cheap and can be bought in bulk, so we feel we get value. The ones we choose out of habit and buy them simply because we always have. But often we know there are better choices. I challenge you to think about those better choices now.
These treats and processed foods that we have allowed to become part of our custom have little to do with family time, sharing and celebrating loved ones past and present or good times to come. They have a lot to do with our food memories, food manufacturers marketing and our habits and as long as we continue to buy them for ourselves and kids, we are continuing to make them a part of our children’s food memories also.
But why should we care about indulging this one holiday event? It’s only sugar and it’s just one day?
Because it is never just this one holiday. We have created a million excuses to buy donuts, ice cream, candy, soda, cookies and cake. From birthdays, to Thanksgiving, to post soccer matches, religious celebrations, family visiting or simply because it’s the weekend.
Back in 1915, the average American consumed roughly between 15–20 pounds of sugar annually. Now the USDA estimates that the average amount of sugar consumed in a year is 156 pounds!!
We know that about 208,000 people younger than 20 years are living with diagnosed diabetes. We also know that because diabetes is appearing in children and young adults, they are living with it longer and so the risk for developing diabetes related complications increases. This profoundly lessens their quality of life and shortens their life expectancy.
There is consistent data showing that body weight changes correlate directly with sugar intake. Just by decreasing sugar intake by 5%, individuals were witnessed to lose an average of 0.80kg of their body weight.
So, the fact that we are consuming too much sugar together with multiple clinical studies confirming its link to weight gain, diabetes, cognitive function, decreased immunity and heart disease, should be enough to make us stop, think and make a change.
So maybe, this year we can be more creative with our celebrations?
Why not try a few of these tips this year to maintain the fun but reduce your sugar this Halloween and festive holiday:
Keep a handle on portions. If you still want to include the same treats, simply reduce the amount you and your family consume. Add Halloween healthy treats to the table of sweet treats so that it’s still a feast for the eyes. Use peeled orange clementines to make mini pumpkins, or monster faces and peeled bananas with chocolate chip eyes to make ghosts.
Make sure to have a hearty meal before the treats and avoid sugar on an empty stomach. Cook up a batch of chili and rice or a warm stew. Having sugar on a full stomach of fiber and protein will reduce its effect on your blood sugar. Feeling full will also reduce how much candy you eat.
Set the stage of rules before the evening starts so everyone is clear. Make a deal of how many candy the kids can eat that night and how many to save.
In Vanessa’s house we do a trade for candy. My kids enjoy all the fun of dressing up, staying up late and trick or treating and collect as many as they can. They can then choose 2 things to eat and they trade the rest for pocket money. I then give the candy to charity.
Dr. Bojana: My kids choose the candy they have the night of Halloween, they pick a few favorite pieces to save (to be had over the course of the next few days), and trade the rest for a small gift (not food!) or pocket money (for the first time this year!). We agree on a hard stop for having candy (too much candy in the evening will disrupt the bedtime routine) and decide on the quantity prior, so there are no negotiations during trick or treating. This year, we are also collecting and donating money to UNICEF while trick or treating.
Consider finding other treats to give out instead of candy. Like bouncy balls, stickers, light up rings, pens etc. (See here for some great ideas)
If you do give out candy make sure it is natural and free of artificial colors, preservatives and flavorings which are linked with hyperactivity. Look for quality chocolate minis rather than full size, fruit-based gummies, organic candy, fruit leather. Quality over quantity. Aim for small and give out 1 or 2 things rather than great handfuls. They are going to be visiting the whole street.
Happy trick or treating!
Written by Vanessa. Dr. Bojana edited and contributed to the piece.