My girls LOVE Halloween. They get to take off their 364 day a year costumes and be the princesses that they really are. If they had an event where adults could go door to door and get free makeup, or maybe Baileys laced coffee - I'd be all over that myself. Halloween however, used to give me anxiety. Between food safety itself, not to mention all the sugar, preservatives and food dyes. And if it comes into the house, me, someone I love, or someone I tolerate will eat it. Over the years I've gathered a few ways that we diffuse the sugar bomb that comes with a night of going door to door for free junk food! All you need is a plan.
But it's only one night!
When we're exposed to refined sugar, it acts like a drug in the body - and because it is refined, it has been stripped and is devoid of it's nutrients (if there were any there to begin with). Dr. Zoltan Rana says that "Sugar hinders the body's immune system and predisposes children to infections and allergies. Sugar is the single most underrated cause of immune system impairment".
Fred Pescatore M.D, author of The Allergy and Asthma Cure: A Complete 8-Step Nutritional Program, claims that "A teaspoon of sugar can suppress your immune system by 56%, 2 teaspoons by 78%". Those are some pretty serious numbers (and remember, a teaspoon of sugar is roughly 4g). The label on the right is from those mini Kit-Kat bars. A serving size is three-two stick bars (if you can limit yourself to that). That's over 5 teaspoons of sugar. And that is pretty much all is added - there are no natural sugars here (maybe a trace of lactose from the milk chocolate).
White sugar, white flour and candy all lack the vitamins and minerals that are required to digest and metabolize them - therefore creating a nutritional deficit, because the body has to find these somewhere in order to just break down the treat!
Chemicals, Food Dyes/Colourings, Additives and Preservatives
Over 300 foreign chemicals have been identified in human fat. And, because children are smaller and less mature, they are more susceptible to chemicals that adults. There are literally hundreds of additives used regularly in children's food! They can be blamed for issues with digestion, growth, mood, concentration, sleep pattern and overall resistance to infection by overloading a child's system with toxins. Many of these added chemicals are also considered anti-nutrients, so they stop nutrients from being absorbed and used.
I've seen first hand what food dye can do to a child. A friend of mine had a daughter who was uncontrollable, on what they originally thought was sugar. After eliminating things one by one, they determined that it was red food dyes that were causing her issues. It was like night and day. They had their amazing child back once they removed all sources of red food dye from her diet. (All you have to do is Google Scholar for more info). The top dyes to stay away from include Red #3, Red #40 (Allura Red), Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow), Green #3 and "Caramel Colouring". You are starting to see more companies (especially those out of the UK), that are going towards natural colourings - beets, turmeric, spirulina are a few!
But how do I handle Halloween and beyond?
I'm not a total Debbie Downer, the kids do get access to some of their candy. I remember sitting around after we got home from Trick or Treating and evaluating our hauls. Anything loose went to the garbage - except peanuts - Dad always ate those! We do a modified version now, where the food gets separated. Anything dyed bright red (lollipops, candies, etc) - goes right to the trash. These get a Do Not Pass Go in our home. As we snack on chocolate and chips, we set a limit on how many are consumed that night, and the rest go into the treat stash for at home. Some other options
Trade some for additive-free options that you can live with
Trade for money; each candy a penny/nickel/dime or quarter
leave them as an offering for the "candy fairy" in exchange for a small surprise trinket and sparkles under their pillow
Build something out of candy (Gingerbread house for Christmas?) Make art!
Perform experiments with candy: what happens if you soak it in water? Vinegar? How long does it take the dye to diffuse?
Notice how I didn't put a bullet for save and hoard all the candy for yourself? Junk is still junk, if you eat your veggies or not. Another option is to truly let them go to town, and teach them to tune in how they feel afterwards - my oldest pushes herself too far at birthday party's sometimes, and comes home with an upset stomach - and has learned how to put those two together!
Another thing I want to point out, is the Teal Pumpkin project. We always have non-treat options for kids (and actually use some of the candy that comes home to hand out later - our kids come in early!). Check out https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/map or https://foodallergycanada.ca/teal-pumpkin-project/ for more information on the Teal Pumpkin project and how to identify yourself as an allergy free home!
And one more thing, the Flu is not a season. Thanksgiving treats have lead into Halloween Treats which will lead into Christmas Treats and then into New Years and Valentines Day before finally ending for the "Flu Season" with Easter. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but we try to keep as healthy as we can, year round!
What do you do with the Sugar Bomb that is Halloween?