Halloween was so fun when we were kids, wasn’t it? We ran around the neighborhood filling our plastic pumpkins, pillowcases, or bags with as much candy as we could carry long after it got dark, and the streetlights came on. So much sugary goodness all in a night’s work. It was so great at the time, but it was so bad for us. It’s even worse now as sugary sweets are becoming more commonplace.
Now as parents, we want our kids to make all those wonderful memories. At the same time, we don’t want their health to be damaged by all the artificial colorings, preservatives, processed sugars, and other chemicals. What’s a parent to do? One idea is to introduce the story or concept of the Switch Witch. Kids can still get in on the fun without the negative effects of the evil sugar because, yes, sugar is that bad.
Halloween Candy and All Sugars Are Bad
The sugars, chemicals, and preservatives in the most popular candies have been linked to gut damage, behavioral concerns, increased illness, and obesity. That’s because sugar is “an accomplice of inflammation,” according to researchers behind a 2022 study. Those houses that think they are being nice by giving out full-size candy bars aren’t doing parents any favors. Candy bars might taste good, but they are not good for you. They can even be addicting and may set up poor health habits for life. Nobody wants their kid to be set up for poor health.
Many parents notice when their kids get too much candy, they become like little MONSTERS and that’s no treat. Artificial colorings found in foods kids eat regularly, like candy, have been linked to ADHD, hyperactivity, and anxiety. We love our kids, and we truly want what’s best for them. Maybe it’s time to come up with a tradition that takes the candy out of this treat-filled holiday.
The new (2020) dietary guidelines for Americans recommend less than 6% of total calories come from added sugar a day. That’s about 30 grams for someone on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. For the average American child, about 16% of their diet comes from added sugar. That’s an average of 362 calories of added sugar per day for boys and 282 calories for girls. That spikes on Halloween. Some reports say the average trick-or-treater will eat 7,000 calories worth of candy with a total of 3 cups of sugar on Halloween.
Now think of sitting face to face with 3 cups of sugar. How long would it take you to eat it? Since Halloween is a special holiday, kids are often allowed to eat way more sugar than they would otherwise. Do you remember eating candy all night on Halloween until you had a “tummy ache”? It makes sense that kids get so sick on Halloween. It also explains why obesity has tripled since the 1970s with 1 in 5 children aged 6-19 being obese.
Keep the Trick or Treat Fun
When they are little, kids have a lot of fun just ringing doorbells and getting treats. However, that doesn’t usually last long. Soon, they are into the treats. That’s where the concept of the Switch Witch comes in. You can get the book, but it’s basically like the tooth fairy. Instead of exchanging money for teeth, she exchanges toys for candy. The more candy she gets, the better the toys and she uses the candy to fuel her broom. Sugar isn’t good for witches either!
If you’re not into witches, come up with something similar. Depending on the children’s ages, maybe the reward is part cash or a special experience. Teach them to give up a short-term pleasure for long-term gain. Since candy doesn’t have much value, it takes a lot of pieces to earn a desired toy or experience. This is a great tradition to keep the fun of the holiday without destroying kids’ health.
Introducing the Switch Witch Concept for Healthier Halloweens
Here are some tips for making the process easier:
- Don’t wait until trick-or-treating is done to introduce the idea You don’t want to celebrate with trick-or-treat meltdown. Start talking about the new tradition in September.
- Make sure you tell a good story. Whether you buy the book to read together, or develop your own story, make sure it captures their imagination.
- Do what’s best for your family. If you think your child might get freaked out by the idea of a witch visiting in the middle of the night, make it a different character like the Great Pumpkin or the Candy Fairy. Or just make it an opportunity to learn about finances.
- Offer healthier sweets instead. There are so many sweet options now, including xylitol suckers, that make great treats your kids can enjoy without feeling like they’re missing out. Xylitol is a much healthier option – It’s even good for the teeth!
- Make sure the switch is for something they want. If they get something cool, they will be even more excited about your tradition next year!
- Find other ways to make the day special. It doesn’t always have to be about food. Get some tips in our article Don’t Feed the Monsters.
- THROW THE CANDY AWAY! This reduces the chance that your children will find it, which will mean the jig is up or that the adults eat it. Candy isn’t good for kids or adults!
Healthier Kids Means Healthier Adults
You can be a good parent and keep the fun of Halloween. Your traditions can set your children up to be healthier kids and healthier adults. In a world that doesn’t understand the harm of so-called “moderation,” the concept of the Switch Witch can be very helpful. But keep in mind that avoiding candy is only one piece of the wellness puzzle. Other foods can also create an immune response in the body, even if they are technically healthy. At The Wellness Way, we don’t guess –we test! Come in and get your child’s food allergies tested. Contact one of our Wellness Way clinics and get your child on the right track to lifelong health and vitality.
- Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake – PMC (nih.gov)
- Meta-analysis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, restriction diet, and synthetic food color additives – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children – PubMed (nih.gov)
- (PDF) The Potential Health Hazard of Tartrazine and Levels of Hyperactivity, Anxiety-Like Symptoms, Depression and Anti-social behaviour in Rats (researchgate.net)
- Get the Facts: Added Sugars | Nutrition | CDC
- Halloween Candy: US Kids to Eat 27 Times Recommended Sugar | Fortune
- Obesity | Healthy Schools | CDC