Showing posts with label halloween safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label halloween safety. Show all posts

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Safety: How to Have Your Candy and Eat It, Too!

For some of us, it’s our favorite time of year: spooky yard ornaments, orange and black decorations in homes and businesses, and costumes that allow us to be someone other than ourselves, if only for a short time. There are plenty of Halloween safety tips regarding personal safety while trick-or-treating, safe consumption of candy received from the hands of strangers, and even considerations for pets during the Halloween celebration.

Kids at halloween party

So instead of addressing these issues that have been covered already, let’s talk about the reality of Halloween candy consumption, and how to enjoy it in the healthiest way possible. Let’s be honest: Halloween candy isn’t health food. It doesn’t lend much by way of nutrients to your diet, and it’s usually made with the cheapest ingredients available. (I call it “indulgent food,” as consuming it is a rare pleasure in my house, so I enjoy every moment when I do.) So can this plastic-encased, fake-colored, artificially flavored substance ever be part of a healthy diet?

With some advanced planning and preparation, it can, and here’s how you can get started.

Have some basic rules. You need to establish up front, the rules for all candy coming into the household. Yes, kids are going to attend birthday parties, holiday events, friends’ houses, etc. and often, they may bring home bags (or baskets!) of candy. Rather than make it an evil thing crossing the threshold, or a free-for-all when it does, it helps to create expectations up front. Humans crave patterns and rules, so this is a great opportunity to come together as a family and write up a Junk Food Constitution. For example, assign a drawer, basket, or container for all candies (if you have multiple children, you might have one per child to avoid arguments) and allow them to have a certain number of candies for dessert. Five was the rule in our house, and of course, that changed if it was a large gummy spider or M&M’s. This is where serving sizes can be reviewed – all processed foods have them, and if you don’t have the box the candy came in, you can look it up online. Keep in mind, as well, that when the thrill of the candy wears off, it’s likely that your children will forget about the candy, and then you can safely dispose of it as it ages.

Eat candy after a meal. When you put processed foods high in sugar into a body that is hungry, the sugar hits the blood stream faster, causing a high…and then a crash. When you eat a hearty meal of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and then add a sugar-laden dessert, you are slowing the absorption of the sugar into the blood stream, allowing the body more time to respond to processing the sugar and maintain a more steady blood sugar level. Not to mention, once the stomach is full, there is little desire to eat much more of anything, so serving sizes are much easier to stick to.

A little is not going to kill anyone. Even in the healthiest of households, a little junk food shows up here and there. If you eat out, your food is cooked in unhealthy seed oils, trans-fats, and sugars. That’s why your body is its own amazing detoxification system. And if you eat healthy 80% of the time, you can afford to take some time off here and there and enjoy life. You don’t want to create disordered eating in the form of intense restrictions. If your children love Halloween candy, develop a plan that works best for your home and life, and creates healthy patterns for them, as well. Living in a bubble isn’t ideal, either, any more than eating junk food all the time is. So finding a balance, and teaching your children how to create that in their own life perpetuates a healthy mindset about food.

Offer tempting substitutions. For some kids (and adults), the temptation is the presence of the candy, not necessarily the candy itself. Perhaps you don’t really care for Hershey’s chocolate, but if it’s the only chocolate present, you’ll make do. Particularly in situations when the take has been huge and you have more than enough candy to last for quite some time, offer your child healthier options, like their favorite healthier dessert item, in exchange for a serving size of candy. This will help them learn to negotiate, make healthier yummy choices, and dispose of the candy at the same time. Take heed: If you turn this into a manipulative situation, kids will pick up on it. Make sure the choice is theirs, and if they choose to enjoy their candy instead of a healthier option, keep the rules of servings sizes and after a meal in place, and let them have their choice. For some of us, a sweet that we love is worth more than a whole recipe of chia-seed pudding, no matter how much healthier the pudding is.

What patterns around indulgent foods have you found that work well in your household? What elements of junk food do you find unacceptable? What substitutes have you discovered that work well for you and your family?

Contributing Writer