Yes, Halloween is here and it is the start of the official holiday season. This holiday season beginning will also lead to the inevitable “flu season.” I always wondered if the two were related. I hear many parents argue that Halloween comes only once a year and it is a time to let the children indulge and have all the candy they can possibly collect and carry in a single night, only to eat them for the next few weeks until the next big holiday, and then the next. So what really is so wrong with our celebrating the ghosts, goblins, witches, pumpkins and adorable costumes? There is no better way to demonstrate how positively correlated these two categories (sugar/candy/processed foods and diabetes/weight gain/chronic diseases) have in common, and how it is not just on Halloween that we lightly indulge. We consume such foods on a daily basis and have eaten ourselves sick. Now that’s scary.
There are really great resources out there, such as Jessica Lopez’s article on the dangers of Halloween candy, http://www.jessicalopezrn.com/mindful-monday-the-scariest-part-about-halloween-the-tricky-treats/ and http://www.examiner.com/article/5-most-harmful-ingredients-lurking-your-candy which detail the harmful ingredients lurking in the candy we give and receive on holidays and birthdays. If I had to sum up these articles in twenty words or less, the picture painted is pretty dismal. It takes all the fun out of the holidays for some, but in the short and long run it will take the disease and sickness out of the body for your children and for you. Also good to know is that eating candy and all these highly processed foods will not only leave you fat. Studies have shown over and over that candy and processed foods leave our minds thinking slower, our immune system weaker, our organs more clogged up and cancer risk greater. It is a greater epidemic than obesity alone. Here are my twenty words: artificial food coloring, refined sugars, genetically modified ingredients, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, lead, monosodium glutamate, BHA & BHT, hydrogenated oils, and sodium benzoate.
Great Alternatives to those 20 Words. . .
Brown Rice Crispy Treats: Made with brown rice puffs, (whole grains), as well as brown rice syrup as a sweetener, organic raw agave or raw stevia, which won’t spike blood sugar as quickly as refined sugars.
Pumpkin or Carrot Cake Mini-muffins or “bites”: Made from orange foods such as sweet potatoes, yams, butternut squash, pumpkins or carrots, these treats are packed with amazing good-for-the-body vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and carotene. Be vigilant in reading prepared food labels before usage, such as the ready-made pumpkin puree. Make sure it does not have added sugars, salts or preservatives. It is always best to use fresh ingredients (pumpkin) when possible. Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds, bake it at 350 degrees for 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of oven and until meat is forked out easily. Scoop out the pumpkin when cooled. Be creative and make pumpkin pancakes, cheese bites or pumpkin bread with raisins, cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.
Chocolate Covered Fruit Skewers: As a great way to add fiber, vitamins, and minerals and boost the immune system naturally, skewer 5-10 pieces of bite sized in season fruits and dip one of the sides in melted dark chocolate. You can even freeze some of the in season fruits such as grapes or banana pieces for a nice frozen treat.
Organic Yogurt Covered Raisins or Organic Yogurt Covered Pretzel Sticks
Organic, no food coloring, additives or preservatives candy such as organic gummy chews, lollipops (some may be sugar free) and Sundrops (M&Ms alternative)
Small bags of natural air popped popcorn, kale chips, or brown rice crackers (Asian style is delicious, too . . . while we are here, dried and seasoned seaweed!)
Small bags of almonds, or nut butters (alone or distribute with whole, small, organic apples
Bags of homemade granola (recipe from http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/healthy-homemade-granola.html)
*1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
*1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
*1/3 cup raw sesame seeds
*2 cups organic rolled oats
*1-2 teaspoons organic ground cinnamon
*3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
*3 tablespoons organic coconut oil, liquefied in a pan of hot water, if necessary
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 cup organic raisins
*1/2 cup organic dried cranberries, unsulphured dried apricots, or other dried fruit (chopped, if necessary)
*1/4 cup raw cacao nibs- optional, but highly recommended (70% dark chocolate chips could be substituted, if desired)
1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. Pour all ingredients except cacao nibs in a large bowl and stir well.
3. Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet in a thin layer.
4. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven, toss granola around, rotate the pan, and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat until granola is completely dry and light golden brown (about 1 hour total).
6. Allow to cool and then stir in cacao nibs. Store in an air-tight container.
My favorite Halloween tradition is to pass out non-food treats (sort of like party favors) such as pencils, small deck of cards, bouncy balls, bracelets, stickers, tiny sketch pads, temporary tattoos, toothbrushes, xylitol gum (for the older kids), match box toy cars, bubbles, stamps, Marti Gras bead necklaces, small key chains, rings, or anything else that is pocket sized and fun for the little ones. There are very inexpensive pedometers out there if you really want to have fun J Always note the choking hazard for the babies, small toddlers and children when distributing the favors.
Have fun and be safe. Happy and healthy Halloween!
Additional resource: Ivillage.com