By Dr. Keri Marshall, MS, ND
Halloween can be both an exciting and unnerving time, and not because of the ghosts and goblins. It symbolizes the beginning of the long holiday season that carries us through the New Year. For many people it brings joy, others stress, but one thing everyone can agree on, nutrition is the first thing to go out the window. Here are a few tips to make your Halloween a healthier one.
Halloween treats come in all shapes, sizes and flavors and it is important to feel good about what you hand out Halloween night. The good news is there are healthier options available for giving out at your own home. Some examples that I have seen this year in the marketplace are mini pretzel bags, organic lollipops, and mini granola bars. And the old standby…chocolate. Of course chocolate has sugar in it, but in small amounts real sugar, when eaten with a whole foods diet, is not entirely unhealthy (unless of course you are a diabetic). And, what child or adult does not enjoy a Hershey’s Kiss?
Most people don’t realize that chocolate, much like fruits and vegetables, is plant derived. Dark chocolate, with high-cocoa content, is loaded with something called epicatechin. Epicatechin is a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect us by exhibiting anti-oxidant activity in the body. While milk chocolate does not contain as much of this antioxidant, it is still superior to many other Halloween options.
Things to stay away from: sugary candies made with high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (such as sucralose/Splenda and aspartame), and artificial colors and flavors. There are plenty of sweet or tasty treats out there that do not contain these.
Now the question is, what to do when your child comes home with a bag filled with artificial flavored, and brightly colored gummies, dipping powders and chewy candies? First of all, go through them with your children (if they are old enough), and pull out the ones you feel okay about them eating and set them aside. Next, there are two options. The first usually only applies to the younger kids who “still believe.” At our house, we like to call her the Switch Witch. When you set out a bowl of candy at night, while the children are sleeping, the Switch Witch comes and swaps out the candy and leaves behind a small present. This way the child does not feel totally ripped off and still has a small bowl of healthier options to choose from over the next few weeks.
The second option, which is great for older children, is to save the candy for the December holidays to make a gingerbread house. Sweet Tarts make great roof shingles. Artificial colored dipping powders make great skating rinks (blue) and grass (green). Nerds make great cobblestone pathways. You get the drift. This way the kids get to pick out some of their favorite healthier options and still have fun with the rest. At our house, when the sorting of candy begins, the kids bring out a giant gingerbread house bowl and let their creative juices run wild with ideas.
Remember, you can have fun and be healthy this Halloween!
To find a naturopathic doctor in your area who can advise you on healthy eating habits, visit our Find a Doctor page.
Dr. Keri Marshall is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in pediatrics, women's medicine and chronic disease management. She also serves as the Medical Director at Gaia Herbs. Reprinted with the permission of Gaia Herbs.