In my neighborhood, Halloween has become a month-long holiday. If you've got young children, this can be sort of fun (who doesn't want to dress up in costumes and romp around at parties and street fairs for weeks on end?) but a big issue (too! much! candy!). I am a strong believer in the link between diet and behavior. It should come as no shocker that we eat basically no candy in my household. So I was interested last week when news of a British study linking daily candy intake in childhood to a life of crime wandered into my email inbox (over and over again - thanks for forwarding, everyone).
When you have a baby, the Hallow-hell candy fest is easy to avoid. They do notice the good stuff - costumes, parades - without focusing on the sugar overload part. Last year, when my daughter was two and a half, hiding the sugar started to become more difficult. This year I am screwed.
It's not that I never permit sweets - au contraire. It's that I want to be able to select the sweets - and teach her how to select the sweets - to avoid gorging on things like genetically modified beet sugar, and all sorts of chemical thickeners and ingredients I don't know and can't pronounce. It's not how we eat the other months of the year, and while I might be willing to make a one-day exception when she's a much bigger kid, like my mom did back in the day, I'll never be willing to make a month-long one.
So what - as readers have been asking me - to do? Talk to your kids. Explain what is in candy that isn't great for you or the earth. Don't make a big deal of it. And don't ban sweets entirely or they'll become too tempting come Halloween. There are plenty of ways to have sweet treats on a daily (or once in a while) basis that won't lead to a life of crime. Things like coconut oil spread on toast, dark, real Fair Trade certified chocolate, hot real cocoa, and warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks come to mind. So do home-frozen juice or yogurt popsicles and even ice cream with minimal, good ingredients. For children who won't drink their milk, try "coloring" it with smashed berries (pink or blue) or more cinnamon (it sits on top - brown, powdery, and alluring). If you want more traditional candy for real parties, or on the day of Halloween, there are plenty of certified organic versions made with Fair Trade sugar that wasn't genetically modified, and dyed with beet and carrot juice, not synthetics - lollipops, gummy bears, the whole shebang. Their ingredient lists are largely understandable. If you're motivated, you can even make your own caramel apples.
Everything in moderation.
And while you're being so mindful, make sure to avoid PVC in store bought costumes, and don't slather the kids in makeup to complete their looks without looking into what, exactly, that makeup contains, and if it is safe for growing children. Hint: just because a package of fake blood says "non-toxic" on it, doesn't mean it is. There are plenty of safer ways to create fake blood and the like (ketchup, anyone?). Get creative.
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