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For those you know me, or have read some of my thoughts in sugar, it is no secret that I am not Halloween’s biggest fan. I question how Halloween has come to be about the quest for as much junk food as one can gather and then eat it. I wonder if our children know about All Hallow’s Eve or Samhain? That said, I can appreciate that it is part of our culture and do allow my children to take part in Trick-or-Treating. We use this day to talk about sugar, food choices and moderation. This is my attempt to put a positive spin on this over sugared, over commercialized day.
Children consume excess amounts of sugar. Soft drinks, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, gummy fruit snacks and flavoured milks are just some food culprits that many children eat daily. Some might argue that sugar is not directly related to health issues in children but these foods offer limited nutrients and displace other nutrient dense foods. Talk to your children about sugar and diet-related diseases and conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
On the eve of Halloween sit down and read the candy labels with your children. Sort the candy into piles based on the type of added sugar they contain. The list below might be helpful in identifying sugar. Sugar is sugar, so I will not recommend that one sugar is ‘better’ than the other. The main objective of the sorting exercise is to get familiar with food labeling language and make your children aware that sugar is marketed under many different names. However, I will point out that the World Health Organization recommends that you limit your intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake.
Other Names for Sugar (source)
Halloween is a great day to talk about food choices. For example, ask your children what foods/nutrients provide their body’s with nutrients for energy, to grow, to build bones, and to see. Does the Halloween candy contain these foods or nutrients? In our house, we always eat nourishing foods first then indulge in less nutritious foods. We like to follow the 80/20 rule.
Eat clean, whole foods 80 percent of the time and allow yourself to indulge 20 percent of the time.
For younger children a ‘this’ first before ‘that’ is a simpler way to encourage nutrient dense foods first. For older children, helping them make food and mood correlations can be useful in them understanding how food choices affect health and wellness.
On Halloween day, I ask my children to choose dinner. This is a great way to ensure that they eat a nutritious supper, to fullness, before they go out Trick or Treating.
Instead of depriving them of participating in Trick or Treating, we use Halloween to explore the art of moderation. We ask our children to devise a candy plan. How much is a reasonable amount to eat? Daily? When? For how many days after Halloween? Help them make a plan that is best for your family.
Remember the days of homemade popcorn balls? I would enjoy nothing more than whipping up some deliciously wholesome granola bars to distribute to our neighbourhood kids. I love showing people that healthy alternatives can taste great. But I had to stop and ask myself, would I let my child eat a homemade treat from someone I do not know. And my answer is no. So there will be no Halloween baking happening here. Instead I will round up some Halloween ‘treat’ alternatives.
Our trick or treat bowl with contain pencils, notebooks and dark chocolate squares.
I am happy to report the pencils were a huge hit last year!