By Kac Young PhD, ND, DCH
Several years ago my neighbor called me on Halloween afternoon and said she wanted to drop by healthy “treats” for me to put in her kids’ sacks. She brought two boxes of raisins and I agreed to give her kids the raisins instead of candy bars. Later that evening her two daughters came to my door, rang the bell and were excited to show off their outfits. They took one look at the raisin boxes in my hands and burst into tears. The mother was ten feet in the background looking guilty and frustrated. Not wanting to go against her wishes, I knelt down to the 6 and 8 year old girls and asked them what they were crying about. They opened their sacks and showed my about 20 identical boxes of raisins and then sobbed again, ruining their clown makeup and breaking my heart. The poor mother was a wreck. She had wanted to do the right thing and spare her kids the effects of sugar, sugar, sugar. But had she done the right thing? Yes and no: mostly no.
Using the nutrition labels on popular candies, it is safe to assume that the average child accumulates 3,500 to 7,000 calories worth of treats on Halloween night, according to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School of Public Health. According to a recent report, a 100-pound child who consumed all of those treats, or 7,000 calories, would have to walk for nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours to burn those calories. (1)
Sugar enters the bloodstream and causes the body to react:
Within 10 minutes: the sugar hits your system.
20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds by turning any sugar into fat.
40 minutes: Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked, preventing drowsiness.
45 minutes: Your body increases your dopamine production, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain (the same physically response someone would get from heroin).
60 minutes: If you are eating chocolate, the caffeine will make you urinate, and you will eliminate important nutrients including calcium, magnesium, and zinc, as well as sodium, electrolytes, and water.
After 1 hour: You’ll start to have a sugar crash, meaning you will likely be irritable and sluggish, thus increasing your body’s desire to repeat the sugar-consumption cycle. (2)
“Yikes,” say parents. What can I do? Halloween is important to kids. It’s the national holiday of candy and frivolity. You want them to participate but there are ways to manage their acquisition and consumption without taking boxes of raisins to all your neighbors in advance!
Spare the sobs and disappointments by managing the candy loot.
If you are handing out candy from your house choose the bite sized sizes of Butterfinger, Three Musketeers, Milky Way, Raisinettes, Starbursts and York Peppermint Patties which are the lowest in fat and sugar. Or, better yet, try alternatives like mini pretzel bags, sugar free hot chocolate packets, mini rice snacks, whole grain trail mix packets, apples, tangerines, glow sticks, erasers, pencils, temporary tattoos, or create popcorn balls without corn syrup and wrap them in ghostly paper. (Kids love clever packaging!) See more ideas from Clemson University, http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/nutrition/nutrition/life_stages/hgic4112.html
When the kids get home from the night of tricking or treating, sit down with them and ask to see the “haul.” Work with them.
1) Have them separate their favorite candy from the ones they don’t like. Make two piles.
2) Determine how much is in the “like” pile and arrange to buy out half the pile with money, gift certificates, privileges, or special events.
3) Donate the “unlike” pile and a portion of the like pile you “bought out”.
Operation Gratitude, based in the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, Calif., has been sending care packages to troops since the war in Iraq began in 2003. Moreover, dentists are being encouraged to include 100 toothbrush/toothpaste sets along with any candy they send. (3)
4) Set up a plan for the candy consumption. Limit it to 3-4 pieces a day for a certain amount per day and create a chart to keep track.
5) Make sure they brush their teeth directly after eating the candy to avoid tooth damage.
Be sure to reward them for controlling their sugar intake. Explain why it is important and congratulate them for creating health inside their bodies. Be the inspiration they need to see and keep your own mitts out of the candy jar, too!
Have a Happy Halloween without the side effects of sugar shock and tooth decay.
– Kac Young, a former television director and producer, has earned a PhD in Natural Health and is a Doctor of both Clinical Hypnotherapy and Naturopathy. She is the author of 10 books. Heart Easy is a system of nutritionally sound, delicious meals that promote heart health, long life and taste great. In the Heart Easy Cook Book sound nutritional advice is followed by family favorites that have been turned into heart healthy meals anyone can make and everyone will love.