By Sara Vance, Nutritionist and Author of The Perfect Metabolism Plan
Halloween is one of those holidays that can sometimes be a bit of a conundrum for healthy parents.
On the one hand, Halloween is fun and comes just once a year. Kids love to dress up, go to parties and walk around the neighborhood to trick or treat and collect goodies. It is the one time of the year where you can knock on doors and get treats! So of course we want our kids to get in on all the fun, and trick or treat with their friends, right?
But for the family that is working hard to make healthy choices all year long – the amount of candy a kid collects seems kind of obscene! Did you know that the average kid collects 100 mini Halloween candies (and that is a low estimate for the older kids that walk for hours). With the average mini candy having about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar – that adds up to about 250 teaspoons of sugar (or about 5 cups!).
The recommended limit for added sugars ranges from 3-8 teaspoons a day, depending on their age – you can see how a few mini candies can easily shatter those recommendations. Most kids are already getting 22 teaspoons a day anyway (teenage boys get 500 calories a day)!
A recent study found that obese children who cut sugar consumption for just 10 days – were able to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and other markers for health significantly. So it makes me wonder what 10 days of candy overload could do? Check out That Sugar Film trailer to see what 40 teaspoons of sugar did to filmmaker Damon Gameau….
Many Halloween candies also contain GMOs, artificial colorings, and high fructose corn syrup – things a growing number of us are trying our very best to avoid. All that excess sugar, chemicals and such can lead to mood swings, weight gain, cavities, lowered immunity, focus issues, and more. It is enough to turn our little angels into monsters!
Kids often walk for miles to get that candy – I think Jimmy Kimmel summed it up well – “Halloween candy is kind of a sacred thing. For many kids it is the first time they have ever earned anything.” Want to know how much Halloween candy matters to kids? Check out this video from the annual series “Jimmie Kimmel Told me To Eat Your Halloween Candy”.
So just taking it away doesn’t seem to go over so well for most kids. But there is another option…
About 6 years ago, when my kids were little, I was sharing my frustrations with all the Halloween sugar with my friend Jill. That is when she told me about the Switch Witch! The Switch Witch is kind of like the Tooth Fairy she explained – but instead of coming when they lose a tooth and leaving money for a tooth – the Switch Witch comes once a year and trades the Halloween candy for a toy!! My eyes lit up…a trade, brilliant!!
So that year, I told the story of the Switch Witch to my two young kids. And a couple days after Halloween (they were kind of getting sick of feeling sick anyway), they decided to pick a couple favorites (we definitely weeded out the ones with artificial colors), and left the rest out for the Switch Witch – who of course knew exactly what toy to leave in it’s place!!
Each time I told the story of The Switch Witch, I embellished it a little bit more. Who was this witch I wondered? I gave her a name – Serena. Why did she travel to world to trade candy for a toy? Because her neighbor Ida took away her ability to do her candy spell of course. Where did she get all these toys? Easy!! Serena can turn rocks into toys! And along the way Serena even learns to like vegetables too!
I wrote down the story and read it to my daughter’s class one year for the annual community read-in. And they all said that other kids might like to know about Serena too! So in 2012, Serena the Switch Witch eBook was born!! And lucky for me, my sister Catherine is an amazing artist. So she offered to illustrate it (we just re-released it on Amazon Kindle this year in color)!
So….this Halloween, let them enjoy the parties and trick or treating. Read them Serena the Switch Witch – and see if they would like to trade their candy for a special toy! Serena is a kind and fair witch – she even lets them pick a few out to keep first (usually a piece for each year old they are)
1. Start the day with a superfood smoothie.
When we start our day right with healthier choices, we want the unhealthier choices less, we might even find that we enjoy them less! What is a superfood smoothie? Superfood smoothies are full of nutritious ingredients that deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and healthy fat – which all help to keep our blood sugar level and energy balanced– which means you are going to be less likely to reach for a candy for “the quick energy fix.” Avoid the “dessert” type smoothies found at many smoothie stores that have a lot of fruit juice and frozen yogurt – those just stimulate the sweet tooth and lack the protein, fiber and fat to keep the blood sugar & energy stable (learn more about Sara’s ‘Rule of Three’ for keeping blood sugar stable in her book The Perfect Metabolism Plan). Try my delicious Pumpkin Cacao Chip Smoothie– tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass!
2. Attending or throwing a Halloween party? Make sure to include some of these healthy options –
I love these scary and delicious “apple bites” (apple slices with almond sliver teeth), fun tangerine pumpkins and ghost bananas, or if you really want to get fancy – carve out this spooky melon brain – a great edible centerpiece – everyone is going to want a slice of brain!! Grain free pumpkin muffins are another yummy addition. Believe it or not – kids are so happy to have some healthy choices at parties – something to balance out the sweets and treats.
Let us know in the comments below – what are some ways that you make Halloween healthier for your family?
Have a healthy & happy Halloween!
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.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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