We all know sugar can contribute to cavities and weight gain, but did you know that eating candy made of white sugar, dyes and additives can contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, irritability and emotional issues such as depression? Did you know that sugar depresses your child’s immune system and makes he/she more vulnerable to illness? Did you know that sugar can upset the body’s mineral balance and lead to digestive difficulties, inability to absorb nutrients, and higher risk of diabetes? Nowadays, most commercial candy is loaded with dyes and additives that can be toxic to any child’s brain. The child with food sensitivities and allergies can suffer significant physical and behavioral reactions. If your child has any neurological issues, they can be even more negatively impacted.
You want them to enjoy, but you want them to be healthy…
Healthy Halloween Tips without Tricks
- Feed your children a favorite healthy meal loaded with protein and fiber BEFORE they go to a Halloween party or go trick or treating.
- Build Halloween excitement around activities and personal and social connections, such as choosing or making costumes together, dressing up, making scary faces from fruit and veggies, and the fun of going house to house to show off their costumes, rather than focusing on candy as the source of enjoyment.
- Tell your kids the story of the Halloween Witch. (See below.) I invented this story a decade ago to tell my children. It ushered in a Halloween ritual that my kids came to love.
- Purchase or make healthier candies from honey, coconut sugar or non-GMO xylitol with natural dyes and no artificial preservatives. Remember 1-2 pieces is a healthy portion size. (See some links to recipe ideas below.)
- Give out stickers, “tattoos,” or other items to the trick or treaters who come to your home, so there is no candy temptation for your own kids there. If you do give out candy, put any leftovers in the bag for the Halloween witch.
- Model healthy behaviors for your child. Don’t discuss your own sugar cravings in front of your child, if you have them.
- When you read to your child every night, include books about healthy nutrition and making healthy life-style choices.
- Encourage more family activities that involve exercise and the outdoors—visit a farm to go apple and pumpkin picking, sign up for sports, make time to walk in the park or go bike riding as a family.
What if my child is already a sugar addict??
- If your child is already used to regular sugar intake, do not ban sweets or create a sense of deprivation or your child’s desire for sweets may only grow. Don’t create a power struggle about sweet consumption.
- If your child is used to eating sweets every day, cut back gradually. Start by substituting healthier options. Add in fruit and sweet vegetables: sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, parsnips to help overcome sweet cravings.
- Wean your child off soda or sweet drinks by putting some 100% fruit juice in mineral water or seltzer, and gradually decrease the amount of juice you add.
The Tale of the Halloween Witch
A new tradition of ritual for Halloween wellness….
Did you know that the Halloween witch flies over our roofs on her broom after dark on Halloween when all the children are done trick or treating?
She wants to take all your treats to put into her witchy brews and potions. If she doesn’t get them, she could put an evil spell on your house or apartment!
That’s why smart Moms and Dads all over the world hide some candy for their kids where the witch can’t see, and put the rest of your collected treats on the window sill or door step.
Don’t worry, kids! Mom or Dad will pull out candy for you to snack on from their secret hiding place.
When the Halloween Witch comes around, she points her broom at the treats left on the porch or window sills and “POOF!,” they disappear to her witch cave on the other side of the world.
She will not cast any bad spells on the houses that leave her bags of candy. In fact, kids in those houses have sometimes been known to have good luck and not get sick as often as other kids!
So feed the Halloween witch for luck and health in the coming winter season!
(Note to Moms and Dads: You can get rid of the majority or all of the Trick or Treat haul by “giving it to the Halloween witch.” You can hide a small bagful. Don’t tell the kids where, and keep it out of view! Then pull out one or a few pieces each day. You know your kids and what you can get away with (or what they have been used to in the past). Or better yet pull out healthier substitutes—candies made without the dyes and preservatives and with honey or natural sweeteners. Do that for about a 5 days, and then, only when the child asks during the following week. My kids would invariably forget to ask sometime during the second week. That way, you have tapered off the candy flow with a minimum of damage by two weeks after Halloween.)
Healthier Halloween Treats You Can Make Together
Here is a list of links to recipes for treats made from real food ingredients without the sugar, dyes and additives. Remember you can substitute sunflower butter for peanut or almond butter if you have allergies or are sensitive to oxalate content. Enjoy!