Whether you are at a staff meeting on October 31st, salivating over the table of cupcakes and orange popcorn your colleagues have brought to enjoy the festivities; or perhaps you are preparing your very own goblin for a night of trick or treating – both scenarios will result in an excessive amount of candy that you can enjoy at your leisure.
What can we do to experience a healthy Halloween that does not involve eating orange coloured carrots and mandarins as our celebration?
Read below for 8 ways to enjoy the holiday in a healthier way…it is possible believe it or not!
1) Encourage your children to donate 1/2 of their treats to those who didn’t have the opportunity to trick or treat!
Explaining that there are children who are too unwell to be able to participate in all the fun and activities often inspires a sense of giving and charity to share their happiness. Allow your family to get acquainted with the local charities and services and your children will become passionate and excited to donate their treats to an organization of their choice. If kids are excited about what they are doing, their passion will be shared with all of their friends and more children will be inspired to do the same!
Examples: Ronald McDonald House, Sick Kids…
2) Participate in the Trick or Eat Program!
This program is incredible for all ages and even more so for older kids who love the creativity of dressing up, but are not interested in collecting candy anymore. Trick or Eat is a youth-led national event where thousands of Trick or Eaters across Canada go door to door to collect food for local community organizations to actively show they want to make a difference on the issue of hunger.
Did you know that 1 in 8 Canadian households experience food insecurity, meaning that they don’t have sufficient access to the food they need to meet their dietary needs!? Inspiring children to contribute to a charity on a day that they are excessively receiving treats/food is humbling and a great experience to add to their Halloween memories. It is predominately organized through university and college campuses, but there is no reason why you cannot participate as a family or in high school!
For more information, check our their website at Trick or Eat
3) Enjoy treats only following a meal (excluding breakfast!) or in combination with a healthy food choice to balance blood sugar levels
When adults or children alike consume a sugary treat, a hormone called insulin is released in proportion to the amount of sugar consumed to ensure the calories are absorbed. After eating the treat, the body experiences a spike in blood sugar levels which is associated with a multitude of physiological changes, including hyperactivity and an inability to focus which may be a top concern at school or at work. This blood sugar high is followed by a blood sugar low caused by the hormone insulin triggering high levels of sugar to be absorbed into your cells and this is associated with inattentiveness, extreme fatigue, irritability, anger management issues, amongst others.
By ensuring treats are consumed after a meal containing protein, the high’s and low’s of blood sugar with be dulled, as will the associated unfavourable symptoms. Furthermore, establishing an accepted understanding that with a treat, you also must have a healthy snack (containing protein) and a small glass of water, should it not be eaten after a full meal. Empowering children to understand types of food is integral for life long understanding of a balanced diet. If you’re an adult reading this article, it is never too late to learn!
4) Be a role model
Simply put, be as concerned with your personal health as you are with your children’s health. Serve as a role model following your own guidelines that you have instilled for your family, and consume in moderation.
Dangers of eating too many sweets for both children as well as adults include:
- Raised insulin levels which can contribute to diabetes and heart disease
- Elevated LDL (unhealthy cholesterol) levels and lower HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels
- Severely fluctuates energy levels which is directly related to productivity
- Induces hyperactivity and impulsive behaviours
- Suppresses the immune system (which is the last thing the body needs during cold and flu season!)
5) Have fun with the Halloween Spirit in the kitchen
Enjoy the holiday by being creative in the kitchen and creating snacks with a Halloween theme. Children would love to help you in the kitchen as well – teaching them how healthy food can be fun!
64 Non-Candy Halloween Snack Ideas can be found on my Pinterest!
6) Avoid using sugary treats as rewards
It is easy to use treats as incentive to accomplish a set of tasks or complete a grueling list at work; however, it is also very easy for this “treat” to become habit as the lists are steadily completed on a daily basis. Try developing a different reward system involving healthy self care activities, spending time with loved ones, relaxing with a movie or spending time outdoors.
As parents, although it is tempting to use treats as incentive to have chores completed, beds made, and homework completed, this can create an association with accomplishment and reward with sugary sweets and furthermore create an expectation that basic everyday tasks deserve a reward after completion. Of course positively reinforce your children with praise and love, perhaps a healthy activity (example going to the park), but try to refrain from using a treat.
7) Stash out of sight, out of mind
Can you relate when you pass a billboard with a Pizza Pizza advertisement showing steaming, cheesy delicious pizza and you automatically crave pizza for dinner? The same thing can happen with sugary sweets. If the bag of Halloween candy is visible, even if there isn’t a craving for a treat, the brain will start to associate the delicious flavour, happy moments when eating treats and induce a desire for a treat.
8) Gluten free and/or peanut/nut free and don’t know what treats are safe to enjoy?
These websites have very extensive lists to provide many options to choose from.
Click here for a Peanut and Tree Nut Free list
Click here for a Gluten free list from CSA Celiacs and GlutenAway updated October 2015
Above all have an incredibly memorable,
happy, safe and health Halloween!
Yours in good health,
Dr. Kate McLaird, ND