When the kids in their ghost and goblin costumes walk the streets on October 31st, carrying their special Halloween treat bags, what they carry in those bags is far scarier than they realize, for it has the potential to rob them of their most precious gift–their health.
Americans spend close to two billion dollars every year on Halloween candy!
Just let that sink in for a moment.
That's how much it would cost to send 20,000 students to a decent college for 4 years, or to feed 303,030 kids in Ghana, Africa for a year.
How many hurricane or earthquake victims can be assisted with $2 billion?
The Scary Hidden Costs of Our Halloween Celebrations
Sickness from sweets. The dentist bills, doctor bills, lost productivity and distress that ensues as a result of gorging on candy every October 31st add up to millions.
Obesity in children. The cost of Halloween on our health and the health of our kids is staggering. Since 1980, obesity rates in children have tripled. Today, 13 million children are obese. The amount of sugar consumed at Halloween and throughout the year contributes not only to obesity but to serious debilitating diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Annual obesity-related medical costs are estimated to be $168 billion. I am happy to be part of the Childhood Obesity Project, created to help inform parents and caregivers about preventing and reversing this epidemic.
Poisonous brew. The ingredients in typical Halloween confections are scarier than the costumes. In addition to sugar and health-damaging oils, they are filled with artificial colors and preservatives. And, according to Pure Fun Candy, producers of an organic line of cane juice sweetened candy colored with vegetable and fruit extracts, the FDA doesn't monitor artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives or even require that they be tested.
And while I don't advocate the regular use of cane syrup (remember it's still sugar and can contribute to cancer, diabetes and nutrient imbalances), or endorse that product in particular, it's nice to know there are companies who at least are attempting healthier alternatives.
Behavioral disorders. Research published in the Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals, concludes that food additives affect brain chemistry in children, resulting in hyperactivity and ADHD-like behavior.
Lancet 2007, Nov 3:370 (9598) 1560-7 “Food Additives & Hyperactive Behavior in 3 Year Old and 8/9 Year Old Children in the Community: a Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo Controlled Trial.” McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, Warner JO, Stevenson J. School of Psychology, Dept. of Child Health, University of Southampton, UK. 300 Children Studied.
This research prompted Wal-Mart in the UK to ban these additives in children's foods. Yet American kids continue to consume them in record amounts, especially at Halloween.
Safe Strategies for Happy and Healthy Kids at Halloween
Here are some suggestions, taken in part from Healthy Halloween Treats:
- Pull your spending power away from the $2 billion spent on candy. Hand out trinkets like pencils and pads, party favor toys, boxes of raisins, or quarters. If you feel you MUST give candy, try some of the Pure Fun Candy organic products. There's a 3 page list of healthy alternatives in the book Healthy Halloween Treats.
- Make your own Healthy Halloween Treats, using fresh,whole, raw organic ingredients and natural sweeteners like date paste and dried fruit powders.
- Swap the candy your kids collect for trinkets, money, or toys. The book Healthy Halloween Treats has pages of suggestions for new Halloween rituals that the kids find fun.
- Teach your kids to Trick or Treat for Unicef, or another charity of your choice. It will teach them the magic of giving.
Shifting attention away from the candy, and into the true meaning of the holiday is a great way to get your kids involved. In my Healthy Halloween Treats book, I share some of the activities and stories my kids and I have shared.
My kids are all grown up now, at ages 17 and 21, so they won't be trick or treating this year. The gift I gave them by not participating in the candy madness and teaching them the value of good nutrition has resulted in two very strong, bright and healthy young men who'll be spared the ravages of health destruction caused by sugar and processed food addiction.
As I observe the physiques of the younger generation, the high school kids in particular, the belly fat and brain fog that results from over reliance on processed sugary foods is apparent.
Enjoy a Healthy Halloween, and keep yourself and your kids safe from the scariest part of Halloween – the candy!
Love, Health and Happy Halloween
Comment below: What healthy Halloween alternatives have you discovered? Tell us your Happy Healthy Halloween Story!