Have you ever wondered why this time of year marks the beginning of a flu season? Well... I have. Especially working in the medical system...
I actually used to dread winter months because they always meant coughs, fevers, sniffles and sleepless nights for the entire family and even emergency visits. Funny enough - the drama usually started a week or so after my kids had stuffed themselves with Halloween treats. Well, no, it wasn't funny at all (if you've ever seen a child with a 40C fever and an earache, I am sure you can relate), and with festivities of the holiday season and New Year's celebrations overflowing with more sugar than nutrition, the misery usually lasted pretty much up until March.
So, for the sake of my own sanity I did some research on this and it turns out a significant dip in our immunity is directly related to an increase in processed sugar intake around this time of year (with additional factors like decreased amount of sunlight and increased stress levels further straining our bodies). And Halloween is probably the most sugar-laden holiday out there!
Halloween Survival Tips
Before I even share my tips with you, I want you to remember one thing I tell ALL my clients, especially when they feel bad about not reaching their goals. I don't expect you to be perfect, it is all about finding balance that works for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. Having said that, let's dig in:
1. You don't have much control over what is being given out to your child while trick or treating, but you definitely can sort things out at home!
When my kids finish their rounds and are ready to indulge in their rewards for their efforts, first thing we do is sorting their treats. Things I ditch right away are those that not only are extremely high in sugar (or sugar-free, but containing artificial sweeteners. More on why in my blog post here.), but also full of colouring agents and flavour enhancers. Sugar overload is already hard on the system so why add more harmful stuff?
2. Divide and conquer
Whatever is left, we divide into small portions (usually enough for treats for the week that follows), with the exception of bigger allowance for the night of Halloween. After all, they did put in some serious steps and deserve a treat for their efforts. 🙂 But from the next day onwards, they are only allowed to have their small portions once per day and only after they ate a balanced meal including proteins, healthy fats and vegetables.
3. Opt-in for treats that are non edible.
I am really happy when I see my kids picking up treats like pencils, markers, bracelets, notepads, little toys etc. I actually see those being handed out more often in my neighbourhood, which I am quite happy about. As much as my kids love their sweets, they don't mind those non-edibles either, especially that then can show them to their friends in school the next day.
1. start before you even head out!
As for my top tips on how to make sure all the sugar consumed affects your family the least... Have dinner BEFORE you go out to trick or treat. This way you will be less tempted to start indulging right there on the spot. Show of hands... who's guilty of opening your kids' chocolate bars on the sidewalk while they are clearing the next house? 😉 It will also help you offset the sugar rush once they start enjoying their rewards.
2. Make your family's nutrition a TOP! priority in the days after indulgence.
Once all the pumpkins are dimmed and all the costumes put away, make sure your family eats full meals consisting of at least 1/2 plate of vegetables. The more colours on your plate, the better! They will help to balance out the acidifying effect of sugar and provide you with powerful antioxidants to fight off immunity suppression. Proteins should also be included in each main meal to further help you balance your blood glucose levels (hello, cravings and waist line control!).
3. Snack smart for a smoother sugar ride
Snack on fruits with some nuts and cinnamon to further curb your need to reach out for "just one more" chocolate bar. Plus enjoy granola with pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (or just seeds on their own, if you like) to boost your zinc levels, a great mineral to fight off sniffles.
But first and foremost - don't stress too much! You will be just fine as long as you try to balance sugar intake with healthy options!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!