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Home » Featured, Fit Families, Teacher Talk

A Healthier Halloween? You bet your pumpkins!

Submitted by on October 13, 2010 – 6:00 AMNo Comment
A Healthier Halloween? You bet your pumpkins!

With Halloween just around the corner, and the excitement of planning  costumes and which party to attend, it’s also time to start thinking  about what we are giving our trick or treaters this year. I have never  been one to follow the crowd, I have been mocked by many for watching  how I eat and how I have taught my daughter to eat.  Ask her if  she can have any type of sweet item, natural or otherwise and she will  say “I have to have my protein first”.  Why, because protein  slows the insulin release caused by sweeteners in the body.    A slower release means a better process in the body and less damage  by free radicals from the sugar.

So, why go mainstream  and give our beloved children sugar?  Have we not heard of the  foils of High Fructose Corn Syrup?  Isn’t childhood obesity and  diabetes in this country at an all time high? This Halloween, let’s  leave the sugar distribution to someone else or at least lower the sugar  content of the items you provide. Be creative, start your own traditions  and set a great example for your children.

Here is a list of ways to aide in a healthier Halloween, they just might  surprise you:

– Make sure your children have eaten a meal before going out trick or  treating: Give them plenty of protein and fiber to help them feel full  as well as clean carbs for the energy required on the trick or treat  outing. Walking the neighborhood can really wear a child out and expend  calories.  A tummy full of healthy foods will deter them from eating  too much as they go door to door and keep them going strong on the route,  assisting in utilizing the calories as energy.

-Give your children smaller sized trick or treat bags; they will fill  up more quickly, whereby reducing the amount of treats brought into  your home. I know this help some parents too as they tend to snack on  the treats as well.  Less in the house means less opportunities  to stray.

-Make trick or treating  a game.  Give each child in your group a pedometer (you can find  them for as little as $2 at your local Walmart stores).  Whoever  has clocked the most steps in your group at the end of trick or treating,  gets a prize (and no not an extra piece of candy, this would defeat  the purpose). This encourages more activity and will also increase caloric  expenditure.

-Be the healthy house on the street. It’s ok. Believe it or not the  parents and the children (even though they won’t admit it) will welcome  some of the lighter fare. Below is a list of some healthIER, individually  pre-packaged, safe alternatives.  And by healthier, I mean just  that… some healthy attributes and some have a reduced sugar content  vs. the usual Halloween candy and some are complete alternatives.

There are those taste buds that have to make the changes slowly (lol):

– Dark chocolate  (dark chocolate has loads of antioxidant and cardiovascular  health properties)
-Peanut M&M’s or Reese’s’ peanut butter cups: anytime you  add peanut butter or peanuts/nuts  to a candy, it provides a protein  which will slow the release of insulin in the body as it reacts to the  sugar content.
-Pretzels are low carb, low fat and if unsalted …low sodium
-Microwave popcorn packs (unpopped)
-Peanuts, Almonds, etc.  (although be careful of nut allergies)
-Cereal bars (good source of fiber)
-Dum Dum lolly pops (only 8 sugars)
-Water bottler flavor packets
-Mots for tots juice boxes are pre diluted with water, no artificial  sweeteners, 100 % vitamin C
-Small water bottles
-Instant oatmeal packs
-Individually wrapped dried plums (go ahead and laugh, this has been  a controversial item, but  my 6 year old loves them, so perhaps you  child will too)
-Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
-Rice cake minis
-Dried fruit chips
-Fruit leather from real fruit
-Package of low fat hot coca mix
-Animal crackers (1.5 grams fat, 6 sugars, 100 calories in 16 cookies)
-String cheese
-Frozen Gogurt
-100 calorie packs of  crackers, cookies, etc.  (This is a way to monitor portion size)

Your local health food  store carries many treats in a healthier, more natural state and in  individual package/portion sizes. Including Gummy Bears made by Annie’s

Homegrown, Gluten/Dairy Free, low Sugar mini chocolate chip cookies,  protein bars for children, etc.

If the food is causing  you a conundrum because you think that your child or your house may  be “tricked” on Halloween, then perhaps creativity and toys are  the way to go for you.  The following is just a snapshot of what is available:

– Bubbles
– Crayons
– Playdough
– Temporary tattoos
– Halloween spider rings
– Decorative stamps
– Stickers
– Fake eyes, fingers, tongues
– Princess tiaras
– Pirate eye patches, etc.
-Roll of pennies
-Glow sticks
-Mini flashlights

One of the most important  things that you can do for your children is decide together on the rules  for eating treats enroute and what to do with the treat bags when they  return home. For example, allow the children to eat 1 or 2 small pieces  of candy per hour of trick or treating. Once they return home try these  guidelines:

Decide on a start and end day when the indulgence of candy wil have  to be over. For example, this year Halloween is on a Sunday, so perhaps  for the weekend allow the indulgence. And when school starts on Monday,  it’s back to moderation and good lifestyle habits.

Separate out all the  non perishables ie the crayons, bubbles etc.
Separate out all the packaged items that need to be prepared, ie. oatmeal,  popcorn, hot cocoa, etc

Children are allowed to set aside their ten favorite pieces of candy  to be eaten on special occasions or used as a reward system for doing  homework or chores, without you having to ask 100 times.  Come  on… you know it happens….

Next separate out all the healthier items like those from the list above  (inclusive of those that have peanuts or peanut butter).

Then the rest of the candy put away, give away, donate, etc.  I  believe last year a local dentist offered an exchange program where  if you drop off a bag of candy, you received prizes in exchange.

Which reminds me, dental  health is just as important as physical health.  And good dental  health prevents other physical health condition.  Be sure to have  your child brush his/her teeth before bed.  Perhaps you can have  a brand new favorite character toothbrush waiting to encourage this.

Create a verbal or written contract which discusses the importance of  physical fitness. And as a family you agree to indulge in activities  (sports, playground, bike riding, even Wii) to help burn off the increased  energy created by the calories, sugar and fat consumed from the candy.  It’s interactive and most of all they have fun while doing something  that is good for them.

Most importantly, establish safety guidelines. Parents should provide  children with flashlights or glow sticks so they can be seen in the  dark. Be sure, if you have a cell phone that the battery is charged.  Provide eaach child with ID in the event they get a stomach ache or  need to use the bathroom while out and about, even if you go with them.   Road ID is the perfect accessory to Trick or Treating. http://www.roadid.com/Common/default.aspx?referrer=5011 .  This is a funky wrist  band that has a silver plate on it that is engraved with all of your  contact information.  In the excitement going from door to door,  groups of children can become separated.  If this happens, all  of your contact information will be literally within reach.   (I  never go for a run or a bike ride without it). This brings me to the  next point….

Discuss the route your  child or children will be taking either with or without you and a time  that they will be returning home.  Have arts and crafts time and  draw a map of your neighborhood highlighting the houses they are allowed  to visit, any cross streets, landmarks as well as your own house.

I know these seem like a lot of guidelines to consider.  But to  quote my father “Safety is Paramount” and “Prevention is the key  to good health”.  Those of you who know me…know that I inherited  his gene for this lifestyle.  These guidelines are meant to inspire  you to enjoy the holiday and every day thereafter in good health and  good spirits. Moderation and safety are the keys to maintaining health,  happiness and fun.

Have fun, eat well, be active and stay safe!

Happy  Halloween to all!

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