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One aspect of parenting is striking a healthy balance between head and heart when making decisions for our children. For example, my brain tells me that letting the kids eat a pillowcase full of candy is a bad idea. But my heart screams, “Come on, you big bore! It’s once a year! Live a little!”
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In an effort to find compromise, I decided that the healthiest thing to do was ration out the candy over time. So imagine my forehead-smack moment when I discovered that this is actually one of the worst things you can do for your child’s health! In fact, many dentists and doctors believe that you’re better off letting kids gorge on their entire candy bag in one sitting, and here’s why.
Although it may seem more logical to spread out the caloric impact, by gorging all at once your child is more likely to skip over the candies they’re not fond of. Spreading it out over time means they’ll probably eat every piece, even if it means nothing but licorice chews and sour taffy by the end of November.
Snacking on candy every few hours, day after day, keeps teeth coated in enamel-corroding acid, the byproduct of bacteria which feed on sugar and other carbohydrates in our mouths and leads to cavities. If you let the kids eat it all in one night, it’s much easier to ensure they brush their teeth afterward. No dental harm done!
Each time we consume sugar, our white blood cell count lowers, making our bodies more vulnerable to colds, flus, bacteria, parasites, allergy inflammation, and even serious diseases.
According to Dr. Bill Sears, MD, studies show that eating or drinking 100 grams of sugar (that’s about ten “Treat Size” candy bars), reduces our germ-killing ability by 40 percent and delivers a 50 percent drop in our ability to ward off bacteria. This immune-suppressing blow happens within thirty minutes of ingestion and can last up to five hours(1). By eating the candy all at once, you put your child’s immune system at risk only once and you can even prepare with a megadose of Vitamin C earlier in the day.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Calories, cavities, and colds aside, there’s one reason for avoiding a daily dose of sugar that trumps them all. Our sanity.
If you haven’t noticed the effects of sugar on your child, pay close attention the next time they have junk food with over 20g of sugar (and with no protein to balance it out). Think an ice-cream cone, a chocolate bar, or a store-bought muffin. Some children will get hyperactive, or even aggressive, while others can seem to retreat into themselves and get distant or overly emotional. Almost all of us will have a “crash” once the blood sugar spike has passed, which often leads to tearful, emotional breakdowns, an inability to deal with stress or things that don’t go our way, or just a general lethargy or sadness. Regardless of your child’s individual responses, health-conscious parents know that their family dynamic is remarkably improved once they reduce the overall sugar intake. The kids listen more. The arguments subside. Serenity ensues. I’m not even kidding.
But what if you want a Halloween without any candy at all? We’ve done it, and so can you. Each Halloween, we give our kids the decision: Eat it all now or trade it with us for something better.
With a one-night gorgefest, you pay the price with a major sugar high that night and an emotional crash the next day, but then it’s over. But a candy-free solution is to just “buy” your child’s loot. Many parents find kids are willing to part with their candy in exchange for $20 or, if they’re too young to understand the value of money, a new toy.
When we first tried this approach, we didn’t know if our 6-year-old twins would grasp the concept of money so we purchased a large LEGO set that they would never expect to have and presented the trade offer as soon as they were done trick-or-treating. They literally jumped at the chance! I had anticipated more of a negotiation but the boys didn’t think twice. Instead of counting all their candy and making piles, they used their hands making the new LEGO set (and in thinking with our heart, we let them choose 2 candies to enjoy while they worked).
The next day? No sugar crashes. No emotional breakdowns. No sniffling noses. Success!
We all remember that goldmine of a house that would hand out full-sized candy bars on Halloween. But if you care about the health of our children, you may want to consider some of these unconventional Trick-or-Treat options:
Aspartame-free Gum (5 calories per 2 pieces, 2 g of sugar)
Available at numerous Victoria retailers. Listing available at:
Baked Rice & Corn Puffs (130 calories per bag, 0 g of sugar)
Available at several local grocery stores including Thrifty Foods.
Let the kids pick out their favorite character!
Dollar stores usually have a good, inexpensive selection.
Pencils or Erasers
Pencils and erasers come in such a fun variety of shapes and sizes these days, so they are a good combination of fun and practical.
Citation - (1) William Sears, “Harmful Effects of Excess Sugar”, http://www.askdrsears.com, 09-12-12
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