Fall is my favorite time of year with cooler weather, colorful leaves and cozy times at home spent watching movies with my family. But as October comes to a close, I’m preparing for the invasion of the “Zombie Makers” (aka advertisers), who created messaging designed to entice children to gorge on candy corn and chocolate pumpkins. As much as I love seeing the excitement on Chloe’s face at Halloween, I’ve always dreaded the aftermath of having her bring a suitcase full of brain toxic, zombie inducing candy into the house. So I developed a strategy.
Let’s face it; Halloween is the highlight of the year for many kids and teens. It’s the one time of year kids live for… massive amounts of free sugar! But with the obesity rate tripling what it was a generation ago and the number of cavities among children increasing for the first time in 40 years, most health experts consider the candy-focused holiday a nightmare. In an article by BUToday, most dental professionals have coined a new term when referring to kid’s cavity ridden mouths as “zombie mouths”. And after the initial sugar high wears off comes “zombie brain” (lack of attention and focus, and even mood issues). I know shows like “The Walking Dead” have reached an all-time high, but let’s keep the zombies on the silver screen, shall we?
In our household, Halloween is more about fun and games than candy corn. Being creative with healthy swaps goes a long way toward keeping kids healthy. Before the ghouls and goblins come out, I make sure to fill my daughter up on the good stuff. I start with a delicious dinner that will help keep blood sugar levels stable, followed by a Brain Warrior dessert (pumpkin bars and apple cobbler are two of Chloe’s favorites). If she’s full before trick-or-treating, she’s less likely to be tempted by the mountain of candy she collects. So why do I even allow her to go trick-or-treating with her friends?
Since Chloe eats healthy year round, I don’t worry too much about allowing her to select a few of her favorite sweets as long as she only eats a couple pieces per week (I call this the 90/10 rule). I entice her to ditch the rest. As she gets older, it’s critical that she begins to listen to her own internal voice of right and wrong. With increasing maturity I allow her a bit more freedom each year. However, I’m NOT above bribery to keep her making the right decision for her health as I loosen the reigns. Let me explain…
As a mom, my main goal is to raise a smart, health conscious, independent-thinking young adult. Unfortunately, the food industry doesn’t have the health of your child in mind. Our children are constantly bombarded by commercials with false messaging and empty promises, accompanied by bribes of toys and games. If anyone is going to bribe my child, it’s going to be me! I’m going to use every tool I have to make healthy eating fun and alluring.
When Chloe was about four I told her about the “Halloween angel”. She could gather as much candy as possible and trade in her Halloween Stash, and the Halloween angel would give her a dime for each piece. Within a couple years when Chloe figured out I was Halloween angel she upped the ante and started charging a quarter for each piece. Now that she’s older Chloe has officially retired the Halloween angel and decided that I’m the Halloween witch!
You may be thinking it’s a bad idea to bribe your children and pay them to give you their Halloween stash, but I see it differently. I’m fighting back against the powerful advertising, and I want to send her a clear message. I want her to be able to enjoy going out with her friends. Just because she collects candy, doesn’t mean she needs to eat it all. She can choose a few pieces and give up the rest. I’m happy to be the candy witch and buy her extra candy. It’s a small price to pay to keep her healthy. When her brain is more fully developed and she can make better decisions for herself, I will retire the “Candy Witch”. I also make sure Chloe sees me throwing the candy away, not giving to the homeless, or worse, our valued soldiers. Why would I poison the people I respect for risking their lives to protect our country?
Do you really want to give advertisers the power to induce zombie mode in you and your family? Wake up! Zombie mode starts in October with Halloween and doesn’t come to a crescendo until the final minute of the Rose Bowl. That’s nearly a quarter of year of binging on garbage excused as “holiday fun” because it “only comes once a year”.
Can you imagine what our annual holiday marathon binge does to elevate blood sugar and keep the fires of inflammation burning? It’s estimated that one in three children born after the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. And the standard American diet is filled with foods that feed the fire of chronic inflammation. These “pro-inflammatory” foods include fast foods, sugar, simple carbohydrates, dairy products, trans fats, some animal derived saturated fats and excess omega-6 fatty acids.
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