The Scariest Thing About Halloween.
Paleo parents might be a bit nervous this time of year, but not because of the skeletons and witches hanging everywhere. Halloween is a challenging holiday for many of us who are working hard to “just say no” to the legal drug that we call sugar.
I try to be understanding when it comes to personal dietary decisions, but I must admit that it really gets my goat to see how America has turned several of our holidays into a toxic celebration of sugar. On more than one occasion, I’ve had friends and family tell me to “just lighten up” and to “let the kids eat sugar…it’s a holiday!” I’ll admit, it would probably be easier to “lighten up” if I didn’t work in the healthcare field where I receive an ongoing barrage of heart-breaking messages from desperate parents, whose children have become sick as the result of the ‘American way’.
What really confuses me though, is parents who work hard to eat a healthy diet themselves, while feeding their kids processed junk foods. Considering that the food we are fed in our first years of life will determine our overall health for the remainder of our living years, doesn’t it make sense to give our kids the best shot at living a vibrant life and to not destroy their chances from the beginning? Food for thought…
Childhood Diabesity is a Real Life Horror Story
Ok, not trying to be a party pooper here. But if you choose to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, you should be aware that:
- Type 2 Diabetes (T2D, previously called “adult onset diabetes”) is now considered a worldwide epidemic. T2D causes sugar (glucose) to build up in your blood, instead of being utilized by cells. Glucose hanging out in your bloodstream is destructive in a multitude of ways (see below for long-term effects of diabetes). Glucose fails to enter cells when the pancreas isn’t secreting enough of the hormone insulin (which tell cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream), or when the cells become resistant to the actions of insulin.
- “Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in school-aged children”, according to the National Diabetes Education program.
- 1 out of 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Health.
- 1/3 of adolescents with Type 2 Diabetes are currently undiagnosed according to national data from the NHANES study.
- Being obese or overweight increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, and likewise, the majority of people (including children) with T2D are also overweight.
- Diabesity is a term that evolved from the intimate relationship between diabetes and obesity (diabetes + obesity = diabesity). Diabetes and obesity have independently reached epidemic proportions in the United States and worldwide.
- The U.S. spends more than any other country in the world on healthcare costs related to diabesity…representing 9.1% of our total healthcare expenditures.
- Obesity is shortening life expectancy. The current generation of children in America are (for the first time in over two centuries) not expected to outlive their parents. This shorter life expectancy of U.S. citizens in the 21st century has been attributed to obesity.
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- Between the years 2001-2009 there was a 30% increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.
- Long-term effects of having diabetes include: accelerated development of heart and kidney disease, strokes, blindness, loss of limbs and fingers, nerve damage, dental disasters, and an overall heightened risk of morbidity and mortality (diabetes is a leading cause of early death). Moreover, diabetes that starts during childhood is much more aggressive and difficult to control, and linked to worse outcomes compared to cases of diabetes which onset later in life.
- Research is behind the times. Our current research efforts are sadly lacking in “proof” that eating too much sugar causes diabetes, which is pretty darn ridiculous (to say the least). The link between obesity and diabetes has now become widely accepted, and researchers are slowly emerging with studies that are beginning to “prove” that yes indeed, there is a direct and independent link between sugar intake and diabetes. Meanwhile, thousands of diabetics are finding great success with reversing their diabetes by following Paleo and/or low-carb or Primal diets.
When Did Treats Become Sweets?
Halloween is an opportunity to INSPIRE our children, rather than poisoning them and contributing to the ghastly epidemic of childhood diabesity. It is completely possible to adhere to tradition WITHOUT distributing junk food to the dozens of tiny people (our future generations) that will be showing up on your doorstep this Halloween. You can be frugal without resorting to candy. It’s YOUR CHOICE what you put into their trick-or-treat bags.
For the past few years, I’ve been conducting a little experiment to see how trick-or-treaters would respond to non-food treats by passing out glow sticks instead of candy. Guess what!? It’s been a huge success…the kiddos love them and are stoked to choose their color of glow stick. Parents love them too, as they make their little monsters more visible in the dark! :) My buddy Darcy hands out 50 cent pieces in lieu of candy. What I’m getting at is that treats need not be sweets! Read on for 6 simple ways that you can inspire good health for our little ones this Halloween!
6 Tips for a Sugar-Free Halloween
 Trick-or-Treat without the Sweet! – Check out our extensive list of safe, non-food Halloween trick-or-treat alternatives to candy.
 Join the Teal Pumpkin Project – If you see a teal-colored pumpkin on someone’s doorstep this year, it likely means that household is participating in The Teal Pumpkin Project™, a national campaign launched last year by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). This groovy project is aimed at raising awareness of food allergies and promoting the “inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.” You can join the movement by putting a teal pumpkin outside of your front door and pledging to provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
 Harness competitive instinct – If you have multiple children (or friends that can participate), host a contest and weigh their candy when they get home from trick-or-treating. This will discourage snacking on candy throughout the night (as will sending them out with a full stomach). To get rid of the candy – You can employ the classic “buy back” scenario (pay them per piece of candy, or pound of candy). Some parents might allow for a few pieces of candy, or a day or two of candy consumption, before pitching the rest into the garbage or towards the food bank. Or perhaps you could consider calling in the Switch Witch for some help?
 Switch Witch – My Paleo friend Melinda has a great way of dealing with the hoards of candy her daughter procures while out trick-or-treating. Here’s how the Switch Witch works: the child leaves all of their trick-or-treat candy at the foot of their bed on Halloween night, and in the morning, the Switch Witch has taken the candy, and left an awesome gift in place! I think the Switch Witch may be the Tooth Fairy’s sister, or cousin, or something. ;)
 Spooky Paleo Snacks – Prepare fun and festive snacks for the kiddos (and adult kiddos) to eat before they head out trick-or-treating. Filling up on protein and good quality fats will make it less appealing to snack on candy throughout the night. Try making our protein-packed Paleo Deviled Spider Eggs, our Green Slime Pumpkin Pudding, and our super tasty Halloweiners, which look like tiny mummies!
 Paleo Treats – Check out these individually-packaged Paleo-friendly treats for some less-sweet and much healthier candy alternatives.
Wishing you a healthy and happy Halloween!
- Type 2 Diabetes in Youth: Epidemiology and Pathophysiology – American Diabetes Association
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents – World Journal of Diabetes (2013)
- Prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Among Children and Adolescents From 2001 to 2009 – Journal of the American Medical Association (2014)
- Overview of Diabetes in Children and Adolescents From the National Diabetes Education Program (2014)
- Prevalence of Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Among US Adolescents: Results From the Continuous NHANES, 1999–2010 – Am. J. Epidemiol. (2013)
- Diabesity: an overview of a rising epidemic – Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation (2010)
- Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Among US Adults in 6 States: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2011
- National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 – Centers for Disease and Control