Halloween is a fun and festive event. Kids and adults get to fantasize about being someone other than they are. We attend parties at , buy scrumptious cupcakes at , and watch our kids dress up for a schoolyard parade at Cook Wissahickon School. But a serious evil accompanies all the innocent fun – wicked amounts of sugar and fat.
Multiple studies have shown that foods with fat, sugar, and salt (combined) trigger the same part of your brain as heroin and cocaine, and can be truly addictive. Here is a short list of sugar crimes from "141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health" by Dr. Nancy Appleton, author of Suicide by Sugar.
In regards to kids, these problems are particularly poignant, sugar can:
- Reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect children's grades and cause learning disorders;
- Cause an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves, which can alter your mind's ability to think clearly
- Worsen the symptoms of children with ADHD.
- Suppress your immune system
- Produce a significant rise in "bad cholesterol," and produce a decrease in "good cholesterol,”
Halloween is a scary beginning to the winter months where the triad of sugar, fat, and salt abound. One does not need to entirely abstain from the “sweet things” in life in order to stay healthy. However, portion control is essential.
For some of us, self control happens in the Acme, by not buying sweets in the first place. For others, portion control is an essential lesson both for our own health and for our children.
A 6-year-old has a body about one-quarter the size of yours, so the child's portion should be only one-quarter the size of yours. It is perfectly OK to cut a candy bar into quarters and give your child one for lunch, another after dinner, and the other two the next day, for example. You don't have to let them have it all in one sitting or even every day.
You may think this is impossible, but my kids never thought their portions were too small until other people started telling them that they were. And, keeping their portions small keeps me accountable as well! When we portion for our kids, we can't be gluttons ourselves or we'll get called on it!
At Halloween, and the rest of the year, here are some great sugar alternatives that my kids and I love: dark chocolate bars (over 70% cocoa - available in most grocery stores, including , and ), chewable vitamins, Vitamin C drops, frozen blueberries—or any kind of fresh fruit – which has fiber and vitamins along with its natural fructose sugars.
For those with a sweet tooth, here is one very effective road to recovery. Eat four servings of fruit (fresh, frozen or dried) per day (unless you’re diabetic or have another medical condition that contraindicates fruit). If at any time you crave sweets, eat an apple (or other fruit of choice) and drink some water. Some people report a disappearance of the sweet tooth within a couple days. It’s hard to find someone for whom this does not work (though for some it may take up to two weeks).
So many people gain weight over the winter, that the YMCA is holding it’s annual “Maintain, Don’t Gain” event. Weigh in between Nov 1-7 and don’t gain weight over the holidays! Whether your tactic is to exercise more, or eat moderately through the tempting meals and parties, maintaining (or losing) weight can yield a tangible benefit, as prizes will abound!