Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Did you know Halloween originally did not include candy?  Candy didn’t become part of the Halloween tradition until the late 1950’s. In the 1940’s, Halloween took on popularity when parents started dressing up their children as “little monsters” and ringing doorbells. Initially, fruit, coins and even toys were the treasures handed to little hands. As time passed, candy companies saw the opportunity to market their candy for the spooky holiday.

An estimated 600 million pounds of Halloween candy is purchased in the U.S. each year – that's an average of about two pounds of candy per person. (

Starting as early as August, stores seem to magically fill with bags and bags of the gooey chocolates or slobbery suckers. Each direction we look we see colorful bags of the sweet treats. Some are easy to stroll past, others catch us in our step and our thoughts become preoccupied on the flavor or salivate over the thought of indulging. Why is it that some are easy to pass up, and others cause a “hunger monster” to growl within us?

To find some answers, we can look at the effect that sugar has on our brains. When sugar is combined with fat, it can release “feel-good hormones” and actually stimulates areas of the brain, also affected by addictive drugs. We also see patterns, do to habit. After all, it’s Halloween, candy and the holiday go hand in hand, so we must eat. This holiday only comes once a year. To those habits, I say let’s create new habits, new traditions, a healthier focus.

This Halloween, you may be trying to fight the candy craving monster inside of you. Here are some tips to control the Candy Monsters in us all:

1.    Healthy in sight - Keep fresh produce on the counter. Focus each day on what you want to include more of rather than not eating candy, especially more fruits and vegetables. Often when we focus on NOT having something, we want it more.
2.    Salads - Try to consume at least 2 dark leafy salads a day. This will help provide the most protein per calorie and give nutrients that fight off the “withdrawl” symptoms of not having sugary and packaged foods.
3.    Procrastinate buying - If you are going to purchase candy, wait until the day before Halloween and buy a kind you don’t like.
4.    Keep the candy in an inconvenient place – Try the garage, a basement closet! Somewhere you have to go out of your way to access it.
5.    Do the math - How much money do you spend on candy? What other area of finances could that be better utilized?
6.    Plan ahead - If you’re headed out with the little monsters, pack a healthy snack like trail mix or an apple in your pocket. If you feel the “monster” trying to escape, eat up!
7.    Try something new and hand out non-candy treats.
a.    Pencils, erasers, spider rings, glow sticks, bouncy balls, etc. Dollar and discount stores can be a great place to find these items.
b.    Some grocery stores will let you buy “coupons” (using candy as money) for donuts.  At a later date, your child can go to the store and redeem their coupon.
c.    Clementine pumpkins - Draw jack-o-lantern faces on clementine oranges.

My kids are still little and need a bit of help in moderating their candy intake. I let my children eat what they want while out trick or treating. Often they are too busy running to think about stopping to eat the treat. Then when we get home, they get to choose 1 candy to eat. At that point, the remaining candy goes into a community pot and placed out of sight.
But what do you do if your kids are used to consuming the candy all in one night, or week?

1.    Talk to your kids before Halloween and make a plan. Talk about the pros and cons of the candy and let them be part of the candy rules.
2.    Make sure to have a healthy snack/meal before heading out to trick or treat.
3.    Take healthy snacks so if hunger presents itself, they have a healthier choice.
4.    Offer to buy the candy from your kids. It’s amazing how they may prefer cash over candy.
5.    Let your kids “trade in” the candy for a book or toy.

Whether young or old, the sugar “addiction” in the brain can be very real. Begin now, don’t wait until the candy is upon you and the signs of the monster are near.  Make a “plan of attack” to keep those monster appetites at bay. Decide NOW how much candy you’ll allow yourself and your kids to consume. Decide NOW to have healthy food options on the counter, in the fridge. Establish the right mindset that will keep those Candy Monsters from invading your home this Halloween.

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