With fall fully creeping into Michigan, it’s just a matter of days until Halloween hits. The holiday, with its omnipresent allure of sugar, candy and all things sweet, is a favorite for all ages, though children seem to be especially targeted by this temptation. And just as haunted as Halloween is, sometimes the side effects of excessive sugar intake can be even spookier.
According to Cassie Sobelton, wellness advocate and founder/CEO of SynBella, a corporate employee wellness program provider: “To ask a child to abstain completely from sugar seems nearly impossible, I know. But why should you be concerned about not allowing your child to binge on sugar? Sugar lacks any essential nutrients and is high in calories. Even if your kid isn’t worried about weight gain, it’s also high in fructose, which can overload your liver and cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that is associated with metabolic diseases. Excessive sugar consumption can even lead to cancer and cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been known to progress to type 2 diabetes.”
Sobelton also notes that sugar causes massive dopamine releases in the brain making sugar highly addictive. It seems severe to say, but people—especially children—are susceptible to addict-like behaviors when it comes to sweets. Addiction is a major problem with sugar, but so is tolerance. Just like a drug, more and more sugar is needed for the pleasure-sense effect, so watching your child’s intake around Halloween is important. There are two approaches when it comes to dealing with sugar addiction and tolerance: avoid or consume and combat. While avoidance speaks for itself, how does one consume and combat?
“If you or your child has started a binge and can’t seem to stop, a great trick for your brain is to brush your teeth,” said Sobelton. “After the pallet is cleansed, often the craving is, too.”
So when it comes to Halloween time when candy seems to be everywhere, how much should children and adults really be eating? Yale Health says that children should be limited to 3 to 4 teaspoons per day, adult women and teens should be limited to 5 teaspoons per day and adult men and teens should be limited to 8 to 9 teaspoons per day. To put that in perspective, a regular-sized Snickers has 7.5 teaspoons of sugar and a 12-ounce can of soda contains a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Sobelton isn’t suggesting you banish Halloween and all its ghoulish glory, but there are some proactive and reactive steps families can take during high sugar consumption holidays (not just Halloween but birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, too).
Some of Sobelton’s tricks include:
1) Keep on hydrating. Water flushes the body and helps it return to a state of balance.
2) Enzymes not only help us digest the food we eat, but they take the stress off the digestive track when we over consume or eat unhealthy foods.
3) Fiber & protein help stabilize our blood sugar, regulating the sugar spike we may have induced with all that candy.
4) Extra Virgin Coconut Oil can hinder the bad fungus and bacteria that grows in our bellies when we consume too much sugar. Consider taking a tablespoon per day following a sugar binge.
5) Probiotics help combat the bad bacteria that sugar feeds after a major consumption. We need a healthy gut to have a health life! Taking a high quality probiotic or eating fermented foods can really help.
6) Magnesium is required for the body to process sugar, so consider taking some or rubbing magnesium oil / lotion on the body to help replenish the depleted magnesium.
7) Cinnamon Extract improves the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates. Consider feeding your child oatmeal with cinnamon or maybe a chia porridge after eating junk food.
Also, don’t forget to exercise because it suppresses the stress hormones that cause cravings for junk food (so you won’t be tempted to eat even more sweets). Get a good night’s sleep so your body can get back to work repairing any damage that overindulging caused. And, once the Halloween season has passed, it’s not a bad idea to do a mini sugar detox and eat clean for a while to get your body back in balance.
Since you are teaching your children long-term health habits now, why not use Halloween as a teachable moment for your children? Help them avoid lifelong addictions with the following lessons:
1) Teach children how much sugar they should have in a day and how many pieces of candy that translates to.
2) Allow your children to make choices of which candy they want to use up their sugar allowance with. For example, tell them they are allowed to have 1 or 2 or 3 pieces a day and then let them go through their Halloween candy and put those selections into a baggie for each day. Do this for a week to ten days and toss the rest (or donate it to charities or churches that will accept candy donations).
3) Show your child his favorite piece of candy and its equivalent in calories to other healthy foods that they like. Let them see an entire plate of their favorite healthy item versus the tiny piece of processed sugar. Explain that the healthy option also has some great properties that help them have energy, stay healthy, have clear skin and feel good versus the process sugar that makes them gain weight, crave more candy, hardly lasts 10 seconds in their mouth and can leave them feeling tired.