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Over the Sugar Coma? Try a Healthy Halloween.
From the Daily Herald Provo, written by me :) Photo courtesy Julie Peterson.
You know the drill -- outfit the kids in photo-worthy costumes and let them run the neighborhood to fill buckets of candy. Then comes a saturnalia of sugar -- and when you try to reign it in, the little cuties' behavior can become less than adorable.
Is there a better way?
"For my family, Halloween used to kick off a two-month sugar high that would inevitably end in January with a New Year's resolution to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle," Betsy Schow of Alpine said. "That changed a few years ago when I lost 75 pounds and needed to find ways to keep it off for good."
Schow is the author of a new book, "Finished Being Fat," now available on pre-order, which details her physical and mental journey from plump to fit.
"Even if you're not a recovering junk foodaholic, little tweaks can have big impacts for you and your kids," she said. "A little sugar is nice, but a lot can lead to more than just the sugar crash."
Aside from those expensive trips to the dentist, there's childhood obesity, "which is running rampant in this country," she said. "And studies show that poor diets lead to behavior and focus problems in kids."
Consider not buying the big bag of candy this year.
"Use Halloween as an opportunity to emphasize fun in a healthier way and hand out some alternative treats," she said.
The best way to stave off a sugar coma is to feed children first, said Leslie Smoot of Real Foods Market in Orem.
"The art of trick-or-treating begins with a good pot of chili," Smoot said. "A good homemade chili will fill the family with a delicious bowl of nutrition before everyone runs out the door to collect treats. Our chef at Real Foods Market makes a large batch of chili every Halloween. It is a perfect solution for families on a busy Halloween night."
"This same strategy can also help children and parents avoid overeating at a Halloween party," said Mindy Probst, registered dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, in a statement to the Daily Herald.
Next, choose fun but healthy treats to hand out. Smoot suggests mini boxes of raisins, nut butter packets, SeaSnax roasted seaweed snacks, cheese sticks, water bottles, candy tarts, Spry gum (made with xylitol instead of aspartame), individually wrapped macaroon cookies or brownies, snack bars, granola bars or seed bars such as "Bumble Bars," or beef or turkey jerky sticks.
Schow suggests homemade treats including roasted pumpkin seeds topped with pumpkin pie spice, sandwich bags of popcorn tossed in pumpkin spice, or purchased goodies like Goldfish crackers, fruit leather or low sugar juice boxes.
Or forget treats all together and hand out what Schow calls Jack-O-Packs. Put a Halloween-themed coloring page and stickers and a crayon or two into a sandwich bag, or novelty toys like spider rings, fangs, temporary tattoos, spooky pencils or a small thing of play dough. Or give out homemade "monster dough" in black, green or orange.
Parents also have to take some control after the children get home with their sugary bounty, Probst said.
"Take the time to divide it into individual baggies," she said. "Use the snack-sized baggies rather than the sandwich size for more control. Then set the baggies somewhere out of reach and only allow one baggie per day."
Or better yet, make a trade.
"Find something your kids want more than candy and allow them to trade their candy in for it," she said. "The Brooks family of Highland has been using this strategy for years, with no complaints from their four children, ages 12, 9, 6 and 4. One year, the trade was for money. Another year it was for toys and another was for dinner and a movie."
Don't leave candy in plain sight. And read the labels.
"All candy is empty calories, but some will have more fat than others. Staying healthy around Halloween is all about portion control," Probst said.