The Halloween Sugar Rollercoaster

November 5, 2013

Halloween is over, so while is your sweet child acting like a little monster…?

In the weeks that follow Halloween parents might notice that their child:

  • Is a little grumpier
  • Is having trouble sitting still
  • Has caught another cold or virus
  • Has been having trouble in class with his behavior or focus

Don’t worry – it could be the Halloween candy!

Between all the sugar and artificial colors, it is no wonder our kids’ aren’t their usual selves. All that candy has them on the Sugar Rollercoaster!

What is the Sugar Rollercoaster?

When we eat sugar, it goes surging into our bloodstream, giving us a burst of energy.  But that energy is short-lived, and followed by a crash.  So naturally, we tend to reach for more of what gave us the burst of energy, and the cycle happens all over again.  I call this the “sugar rollercoaster,” and it is easy to get stuck on it!  The blood sugar crash causes moodiness, increased hunger, low energy, and can even lead to shakiness.

Sugar and Immunity

Sugar also lowers our production of white blood cells, which reduces our immunity, not what we need this time of year when colds and flu season is coming into its’ peak.

More Addictive Than Cocaine?

A recent study found that sugar was more addictive than cocaine, so it is not surprising that once you get started, it is hard to stop.

What about the Artificial Colors?

In addition to the sugar, one packet of Skittles contains 9 (yes NINE) different artificial colors. Many parents might not realize the impact that all those colors can have on their kids.  Artificial colors has been shown to negatively affect behavior and attention in certain susceptible kids. Europe has recognized this, and all products with artificial colors must contain warning labels.  So most brands use natural colorings in Europe, while they use the brighter and cheaper artificial colors in the U.S.  Watch this Halloween Candy Controvery segment on the Today Show to learn more.

So how much sugar does Halloween really add to the average kids’ diet?

Did you know that the average kid collects about 100 pieces of candy on Halloween night?  Well, Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 8.32.53 AMthey are just fun-sized candies – so it is no big deal right?  Well, a fun sized packet of Skittles contains 11.4 grams of sugar, which amounts to just under 3 teaspoons of sugar.  Two packets of fun sized Skittles, and your child has already met their recommended added sugar intake for the whole day!!  That leaves no room for the added sugar that is coming in their yogurt tubes, cereals, sports drinks, snack bars, fruit juice, flavored milks, or the barbeque sauce they dip their nuggets into (a surprising number of BBQ sauces’ first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup)!

It Really Adds Up

Let’s assume that on average, each fun sized candy has about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, and if a kid brings home 100 pieces, that will add up to 250 teaspoons of sugar or 3,700 calories of pure sugar!  The average teenage boy already eats over 500 calories a day of sugar on average (not considering Halloween candy in the mix).  So just 5 fun sized candies each day will add an extra 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (that is 1/4 cup!), which is an extra 187 calories of nutrient-void candy.  If they are eating 5 pieces a day, it will take them 20 days to eat the 100 pieces – so that is an extra 3,700 calories of sugar in less than 3 weeks!!

What’s a Parent to Do?

American kids already are getting way too much sugar in their daily diets. But trick or treating really takes them over the edge.   So what is a parent to do about all that candy laying around?

  • Invite the Switch Witch to come for a visit! The Switch Witch is like the Tooth Fairy – she comes in the days after Halloween to trade candy for a toy.  I loved the idea of the Switch Witch, but I wondered why she trades candy for a toy, so I decided to write an eBook last year about why she does this – and that is how Serena the Switch Witch was born!!  It is available for Nook and iPad on for just $1.99!!   My sister did all the art for the book too.   Kids can choose a couple of peices to keep, and then leaves the rest for the Switch Witch, and she will bring them a toy in it’s place!
  • Bring the candy to a Candy Buy Back program – a lot of pediatric dentists have these – they will give you a small sum of money for each pound of candy you turn in.  Then they send the candy along with toothbrushes to the troops overseas.  Go to to find a candy buy back location near you!
  • If the kids decide to keep the candy, make sure they are not keeping it in their room.  If it is in their room, they will be more likely to eat it all day long, and you might just find a few dozen wrappers under their bed next time you clean.
  • Pool the candy together in a “movie stash,” and hide it away somewhere the kids won’t find it, and is very inconvenient for you to sneak it too.  We have done this in the past, and then when we go to the movies, I let my kids pick out one or two Halloween sized candies for the movie.  It is a fun treat, and then you don’t pay the movie prices, or end up with the movie sized candy boxes.
  • If you do keep the candy, get rid of everything that has artificial colors in it, because that can contribute to hyperactivity and focus/attention problems.
  • Do science experiments with the candy!!  Such as making this colored rainbow… I think putting artificial colors in our bodies is kind of like doing a science experiment anyway, so why not do an ACTUAL science experiment that your kids can learn from (not get all hyper from)??

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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