Taking the Scary Out of Halloween (Candy)

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. When we were kids, my brothers and I would get back from trick-or-treating and immediately tally up our pieces (to see who “won”, obviously).  We would also create piles and categorize the candy from least to most favorite.  Anything we didn’t really enjoy (for me that meant Tootsie pops/rolls, Almond Joys/Mounds and Whoppers), would be traded for candies we did love (York Peppermint Patties, Twix and Reese’s Cups were my jams).

As an adult, I still love everything about Halloween. I love a good costume (not counting “sexy” anything–I hate those). I love scary movies, handing out candy and of course, enjoying some of it myself too. Reese’s cups are still in my favorites pile.  Most of all, I look forward to dressing Rocky up every year.

The last few years on Halloween, I’ve also participated in The Teal Pumpkin Project. If you haven’t heard of it yet, The Teal Pumpkin Project is an effort to allow kids with food allergies to still be able to participate in Trick-or-Treating, by offering up non-candy treats, such as tattoos, bubbles, stickers and toys. 

While I participate as a way to acknowledge and accomodate little ones with (potentially life threatening) food allergies, I also appreciate the opportunity to give kids options for their treats.  We all know there is plenty of candy to be had at other homes, so if my trick-or-treaters want to choose a toy at my house instead, I’m all for it. 

Last year, someone in our neighborhood saw that I was giving away toys and (accurately) guessed that I must work in a health and wellness field. She was correct, but I hope the assumption was because I was accommodating kiddos with allergies, not because it seemed I was discouraging sweets.

I don’t want to be put in the category of houses that give away apples or toothbrushes at Halloween. I’m most definitely not anti-sugar or sweets. I have plenty of candy to offer too, and no it’s not organic, low-sugar or otherwise “healthified”. Here’s where I stand on treating yo-self (or your kids) on Halloween:

The bigger deal you make about candy and sugar, the more your kids will see it as something that is “bad” or should be feared. 

 

A key principle of Intuitive Eating is unconditional permission to eat. All foods. The sugary kinds, too. Rather than allowing this super fun holiday to become a memory of fear and rules surrounding food, I encourage you to try encouraging a healthy relationship with sweets and maintain a focus on the costumes and fun with friends. This Halloween, test out these tips for a non-diet approach to trick-or-treating:

  • Relax with the rules. Setting rules and restrictions surrounding candy creates a mindset of rebellion and may encourage secret eating or binging. 
  • Talk to your kids about candy. Ask what their favorites and least favorites are. Talk to them about how it makes them feel. See if they maybe want to trade or get rid of the candies that aren’t their favorites. Consider donating some candy to organizations like Operation Gratitude or Soldiers’ Angels.
  • Create some structure. I’m not a parent, but I do know that a key function of parenting is providing structure for children. Allow your kids to work on self-regulating by encouraging them to choose what candy they’d like at snack or dessert times.  Suggest they think about how many pieces may be “enough” for them to feel satisfied, so they can enjoy their stash for a longer time period or determine what else they can do with it.
  • Think before you speak. Model intuitive eating principles by giving yourself permission to eat candy and taking your time to truly enjoy it. Avoid talking about how “bad” sweets are or how you “should” only have one piece. Kids are smart and they’re always paying attention. 

And my favorite…

  • Calm down, please. One night (or even a few nights) of sugar “overload” is not going to cause harm, while instilling fear around foods and encouraging restriction can set your child up for years of unhealthy behaviors. Let’s keep the fun in Halloween (and all other holidays), shall we?

Happy Halloween! Tell me…what is your favorite treat this time of year? What goes in your trade pile?

Fed Up

This past Sunday I went to a screening of Fed Up, a movie documentary about the obesity epidemic and our food industry. Call me a nutrition nerd, but this is what I’m passionate about and I think these types of films can shine light on important issues in our world.

original

I often take for granted that I am very informed about nutrition, food, what it contains and how it’s produced. I think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to nutrition labeling and claims. So I have to always remember that most of us aren’t.  And not having a good understanding of nutrition labels or health claims can make it very difficult to make informed positive choices when it comes to what we’re putting in our mouths. Or our children’s mouths for that matter.  Often parents think they are making good choices by purchasing low calorie or low fat foods, not even realizing it’s chock full of sugar or chemicals and additives that are contributing to obesity and other medical issues.

Fed Up focused mainly on sugar and how the industry sneaks it into our food, causing us to become addicted while making us overweight and sick.  It highlights the struggle between health initiatives and big business.  It shows how manipulative and powerful the food industry can be and how big of an impact marketing has on us as consumers.

I won’t go into too much of a nutrition rant here, and I do encourage everyone to go see the movie…but I wanted to write about it to spread the word.  The producers made the film to be a call to action. Let’s take back our food!  Let’s reduce our sugar intake and start making informed choices about what we’re eating and why we’re eating it!  I’m SO on board with this message and challenge you to join the “fight”.  Here are just a few things you can do starting today:

  • Educate yourself.  Seek out information about what’s in your foods, how it is being prepared and where it comes from.
  •  Make a move toward more whole, real foods and away from packaged ones.
  • Look at ingredient lists and don’t just fall for the claims on the front of packages, because they’re often not regulated.  Choose items with fewer ingredients and make sure they are things you can identify and pronounce.  Steer clear of foods with added sugars.  Just a few of the many words you can look for: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maltose, molasses, sucrose.
  • Get in the kitchen, get your hands dirty and cook.  This puts YOU in control of everything that goes into your mouth and can limit added sugar, salt and fat.  Not to mention cooking can be stress-relieving and FUN!

Be sure to go see Fed Up in theaters on May 9th and let me know what YOU think.  Some of my other favorite informative food documentaries include Food, Inc., Fresh, King Corn, SuperSize Me and Forks Over Knives.

Have you seen any of these (or other) food documentaries?  What are your thoughts?  Let’s talk about it!

3BF677B952DD960A6BD0AC1DAE295ADF