Halloween is almost here and everyone is wondering what costume to wear and what treats to give. Careful planning can make this holiday more enjoyable than you imagined.
Sugar is usually the treat of choice, but it is harmful to our health. Since we want to set a good example for our children, I‘ve found some truly wonderful alternatives that are enjoyable and entertaining. While children may not always appear to be listening, they are always watching, so send a consistent message that healthy eating is important—even on holidays. This can be challenging when the rest of the country is trying to eat as many pieces of candy and sugary desserts as possible.
According to research, one teaspoon of sugar can shut down a person’s immune system for up to 5 hours. Yale University says that children should get only 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar per day and that an adult should limit intake to 5 teaspoons. This is even possible on Halloween. We all benefit from avoiding going overboard on holiday occasions.
Try to find a healthy balance for your children’s food intake and create an atmosphere of wise choices. First, before going trick-or-treating with your children or sending them to a Halloween party, serve a filling and healthy meal so that tempting sugary desserts and candy aren’t eaten simply because of hunger.
You can also pass out non-edible treats as substitutes for candy. Try things like stickers, crayons, bubbles, kaleidoscopes, slinkies, yoyos, sidewalk chalk, small flashlights, glow sticks, hacky sacks, funny glasses, or other fun gifts. You can even pass out toothbrushes! You can find packs of these online or at the local party or craft stores. Make sure you pick age appropriate treats for children, and especially make sure that the gifts do not include small parts that a child could choke on. Some gifts may be better for smaller children, while others may be more fun or safer for older children.
If you would prefer to hand out edible treats, try some commercially-packaged alternatives to candy like trail mixes, raisins, popcorn packets, or nut butter crackers. People will trust packages from the grocery store more than homemade items, as they are sealed.
For a home party, you can make healthy pumpkin muffins, popcorn with nuts and raisins, or a Goblin Goulash. It is the perfect time to serve a green kale smoothie! (Which I suggest calling for a Halloween drink/treat, Goblin Goulash!) Guests will think they are having a special Halloween drink, when in reality you are introducing a healthy green drink.
With childhood obesity on the rise at an alarming rate, literally doubling over the last 30 years, it is good to be someone who isn’t contributing to the sugar disease epidemic. You’d be surprised how much all of us enjoy an alternative to the sugar laden candy that is so common.
If your child goes trick-or-treating, instruct your child to wait and allow you to inspect the food they collect before they eat it. Tell them that if any candy or food they received isn’t wrapped professionally (commercially), they should throw it away, especially if it looks like there is any kind of tampering (tears, holes, discoloration, etc.) with the package. I always threw out any kind of candy or treat that my children were given that looked suspicious in any way. Don’t take a chance, just throw it out if there is doubt.
If you allow your children to eat candy or treats, be aware that some have a shelf life. If you are allowing your child to have one or two pieces per day, check the candy for freshness or an expiration date before he or she can have it. Teach your children to do this as well. Children can be very responsible if given the chance.
Children’s teeth and gums are damaged by sugar. Dental decay can be painful and damaging to a child’s health. Conditions like this can challenge a person for their entire life. Help your children make the best decisions for their health now. Make certain they brush and floss after consuming sweets. Your children will always be grateful for the love you show them. They may not show it today, but they will recognize and appreciate it more as they grow older.
For Halloween, spend time together, play fun music, bob for apples, make jack-o-lanterns, and bake pumpkin bread or other items that benefit your family’s health. This shows your family how much you really care about them. May you have a fun, safe Halloween holiday.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, R. E. Willard, P. J. McMillan, S. Y. Cho, A. R. Magie, and U. D. Register. – Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. – The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Inc. 1973., Copyright © 1973, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract
- Yale Health Newsletter.Be a “Sugar” Detective. http://yalehealth.yale.edu/sugardetective