• Stacey Baganz, MS, BCHN

Spooktacular Ideas for a Healthier Halloween


Ghosts and goblins and CANDY, oh my!


I don't know about your neighborhood, but in mine the ultimate goal of all the kids is to stay out as long as possible, collecting enough candy to last them until Christmas. We used to keep the candy bowl out until the next major holiday, sneaking a bite sized Snickers here and a couple M&M's there, until our health needs caused us to rethink this practice.


The truth is, as a mom who's now very concerned about her kids' health, Halloween really does SCARE me. Not only to I loathe the thought of major sugar-induced melt down that is destined to occur before bed after trick-or-treating, but I am also really bothered about the $50 or more in candy I just bought to perpetuate this custom of filling our children will massive amounts of sugar, food dyes, preservatives and trans fats. And it especially scares me for the kids out there facing allergies, health issues or behavioral challenges whose bodies really need to avoid these chemicals.

Regardless of whether your kid faces health issues or not, these easy to implement ideas will have you on the road to a healthier Halloween!


But first, let's take a look at why candy isn't a good idea in the first place:

1. SUGAR. Oh that has become the word of the common enemy these days. Want to know why flu and cold viruses always increase in the fall leading up to Christmas? Well, guess what......it's the constant increase in consumption of sugar from one holiday to the next. Sugar is a powerful immune suppressant. Sugar creates web-like barricades inside your body, which blocks your immune system from doing its job. It blocks nutrients from getting into your cells. It raises insulin levels which has major implications for our generation of kids who 1 in 3 will contract diabetes by adulthood. 1 teaspoon or 4 grams of sugar can block the immune system for up to 5 hours.


A funsize Twix has 8 grams of sugar = 10 hours of immune suppression + 3/4 the daily recommended amount of sugar for your child.


A small Milky Way small has 21 grams of sugar = 20 hours of immune suppression + almost double the recommended amount of daily sugar for your child.


2. GMO's. While there are lots of promises out there of improving ingredients, most of the mainstream candy makers like Mars, Nestle and Hershey all use ingredients that originate from genetically modified corn, soy or sugar beets. GMO's have huge implications on health, and cause tiny lesions in the stomach lining that lead to food allergies and intolerance. With 70% of the immune system residing in the gut, it's important to avoid foods that cause damage.

3. ADDITIVES, DYES AND ALLERGENS. Food additives and coloring have profound impacts on the brain, and have even been linked to cancer. Many act as stimulants and cause hyper activity in children. In addition, they are shown to have cumulative effects. One serving of M&M's has 29.5 grams of food coloring, while skittles has 33.3 grams. Many candies have hidden refined flour, partially hydrogenated oils, cancer causing preservatives, and dairy.

What are some tips to making Halloween FUN AND HEALTHY?


1. Before heading out for the big night, fill your kids bellies with lots of healthy stuff. Send them out FULL! Be sure they eat and drink a full glass of water before candy-hunting so they will be less inclined to want to snack all night on the loot that they receive.

2. Consider purchasing non-food related goodies to hand out on Halloween night. Your kids will still get lots of candy, believe me, even if you aren't passing any out! Glow sticks, finger lights, tattoos, glow in the dark vampire teeth, spider rings, noise makers and whistles, Halloween straws, and stickers.


3. Keep the conversation flowing, way in advance of the actual day. In our house, we are constantly talking about food and how it impacts our bodies. We educate our kids on GMO's, and sugar and the impact it has on our brain and our health. Let your kids know that real food helps us grow big and strong.


4. Agree upon a plan of action for when Halloween is over, once the mounds of candy are back in the house. For my older son, he trades me all his candy for several "healthier" candy bars that I purchase at Whole Foods. Many local dentists buy back candy for money and donate it to another cause. For younger kids, consider having the Switch Witch come to your house. Set up your barter and expectations beforehand.


5. If you must resort to candy, there are healthy alternatives out there. The Unreal Candy Company makes gluten free, non-GMO, fair trade candy that replicates many favorites like peanut butter cups, M&M's and snickers. The Food Babe also put out a great graphic on healthier candy alternatives. Another healthy alternative is tiny raisin containers. Passing out small bottled waters could also be a big hit, as kids and parents get tired and thirsty from so much walking.

6. Support a great cause. Many kids in your neighborhood are allergenic or have special dietary needs. Sport the Teal Pumpkin Project at your house, to show your neighbors that you will be passing out items that are allergy friendly.

Here's to a FUN, SAFE and HEALTHY Halloween!

HOW WILL YOU FUEL?

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