Binging on candy and other sweets during the holidays seems almost as inevitable as death and taxes. Pick your poison. Do you prefer the chocolate Easter bunny? The heart-shaped box on Valentine’s Day? The red, white, and blue cupcakes of Independence Day? The green and red sugar coma that comes with Christmas? Or Halloween smorgasbord?
Perhaps Halloween is the worst of the bunch since the primary tradition is to send costumed children out to scam candy from the neighbors, while the other holidays do provide some ability to say, “No.”
Halloween originated as a pagan holiday. It was both a harvest festival and a day to remember the spirit world that lurked just outside your door if you were dumb enough to walk at night. The healthy, communal meal of whole fruits, vegetables, grains, beer, and animal protein, if not hoarded by the local lord, was made from the best produce in the village.
The villagers’ practice of dressing up as whatever most scared them was viewed either as a cathartic release of fear or as a sound way to be passed over by the spooks. This practice led to “trick or treat” when dressed up kids hit up the neighbors for bribes to keep evil from the door. This was all well and good when the treat was an apple or a pear.
Somewhere along the line, sugar entered our diet. For years no one knew sugar kills. But now that we do know, how can we protect our children’s health and still participate in the biggest candy holiday of them all?
The first decision you have to make is, “What do we give out from our house?” Knowing sugar is bad, don’t get caught in the ultimate hypocrisy: withholding sugar from your kids while you poison the neighbors’ offspring. Your first thought might be to revert back to the traditional Halloween fare of apples or some such whole fruit, but we’ve all heard variations of the urban myth about razor blades or injected drugs in apples. These days kids are taught to throw away anything that doesn’t come in a package, so fresh apples will get tossed. Fear not! There are plenty of inedible gifts that are almost as cool as candy and most can be found at the 99-cent store.
Balloons are a great gift. A child given a pack of balloons will be almost as happy as the child coked up on Snickers bars. They might even like it more since you’ll be arming them for the water balloon wars that rage every Halloween.
Kids like lots of things: pencils, pads of paper, and small toys. Glow bracelets and glow sticks are favorites. Kids love them, especially if they get a cool color other than that standard DayGlo green.
Glow sticks are cheap. You can find them and other novelties online.
So what do you do with your own kids to keep them from experiencing a sugar coma? You could host a Halloween party or have the coolest haunted house in the neighborhood and have your kids be part of the act. But if your kids want to go door to door, it seems a bit cruel and wasteful for them to collect a big bag of candy for you to throw away. At the very least, make an agreement about how much candy they can eat. But a better alternative might be Trick or Treat for UNICEF.
If they Trick or Treat for UNICEF they’ll collect change, mostly pennies, instead of candy. The money goes to needy children around the world. If you aren’t familiar with Trick or Treat for UNICEF, ask your parents. Chances are, they did it when they were kids. Back then many schools handed out little orange UNICEF boxes right before Halloween and the kids would bring their filled boxes back to school. Those pennies added up.
You could ask the PTA if they want to participate, but if they don’t your kids don’t need to be part of a group to help UNICEF. You can go online to order boxes or to download and print a wrapper to tape on a can. Your children can have the fun of trick or treat and take pride in helping others at the same time. Trick or Treat for UNICEF also gives older children an excuse to go trick or treat without being teased about being too old. Check out UNICEF online.
If the fact that sugar is poison is still new to you, it’s time to educate yourself. Please read the August issue of Organic Lifestyle Magazine, then educate your children. If they don’t understand what sugar and sugar addiction will do to their bodies, they won’t make good choices when they are out of your sight. Talk about nutrition and tell them how sugar helps cause very serious illnesses. Be sure to include these high points:
- Sugar is empty calories with no vitamins, minerals, protein or anything else healthy.
- Sugar is addictive, requiring that you come back for more.
- If you eat more than you can work off, you will gain weight.
- Sugar suppresses the immune system, which makes you sick more often.
- Sugar contributes to acne.
- Sugar can contribute to falling asleep in class or after meals.
- Have your child read labels with you in the grocery store. When given a choice between products, choose the one with less sugar. Better yet, teach them why you aren’t buying that canned or boxed processed food.
- Consistently remind your children that they will feel better when they don’t eat sugar.
Don’t be afraid to make changes in your family’s diet. Start by telling your children you love them too much to feed them foods that make them sick. Maintaining good health is
daily process. Teaching good habits to our children, especially when they are constantly bombarded with targeted advertisements for sugar products, requires diligence and ongoing affirmation.
If you are just beginning the war on sugar, Halloween may feel like a landmine. However, with just a little planning, the danger of Halloween candy can be an opportunity for everyone to learn and have fun.
Dr. Appelton has written 5 books: Lick the Sugar Habit, The Curse of Louis Pasteur, Healthy Bones, Lick the Sugar Habit Sugar Counter, and Stopping Inflammation. She has retired from her nutrition counseling practice in Los Angeles but continues to write, lecture and broadcast on health subjects. For more information on sugar go to www.nancyappleton.com