Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Almost Halloween!

sleepy hollow pumpkin
My family attended the greatest Halloween party over the past weekend. It was for all ages, so there were toddlers entranced by motion-activated ghosts and seniors in face paint chatting it up. There were teenagers hanging out on the sofas and younger teens playing tag and flirting (which is basically the same thing for that age group). Us middle-agers had a great time dancing, imbibing, catching up, and eating. Because the party was a potluck, I realized how fortunate I am to be surrounded by people who value good food and brought their finest recipes to share. The dessert table, which could have been a disaster of artificially colored and flavored treats, was laden with homemade cupcakes with real chocolate frosting, snickerdoodles and other cookies that were crisp with real butter or coconut oil, homemade cakes decorated with naturally colored frosting, chocolates formed in the shape of rats (icky, but tasty), and other sugary, but fairly wholesome, treats.

The chilis, salads, sides, and other food were equally whole. What a treat. 

But as we sneak ever-nearer to the official trick-or-treat date, the drug-store candy is beginning its siren call to my kids, and to kids across the country. For Halloween, I take the view that I won't give away candy that I wouldn't give to my family. That makes sense because the pre-Halloween stash and post-Halloween leftovers are eaten by my family (and me). So, of course I look for alternatives that have no suspicious chemicals, items like bite-sized Cliff Bars or candy from health food stores. However, I don't stress too much about it and some people are surprised to learn that I also give out more commercial candy. But I do, after reading the labels. In this case, my goal is to minimize, rather than eliminate, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. So, Butterfingers are a reasonable compromise and Hershey Bars are OK. Not great, but OK for this specific holiday, especially because my kids are older, have developed good eating habits, and quickly tire of cheap candies.

I do, however, stay away from the candies that are just an compilation of chemicals, you know those brightly colored, strangely flavored ones, like those highlighted by TakePart, in its article on the worst Halloween candies. Generally, these are not only laden with chemicals, they are sticky, too, which means they stay around on teeth (and braces!).

This conversation is getting a lot of traction. Over at The Lunch Tray, blogger/lawyer Bettina Siegel is conducting a poll on what you're giving away for Halloween. She also provides some ideas to reduce the chemical intake of the holiday. These candies look great, but I have not seen them in my local stores.

In honor of Halloween, here are links to some previous HealthTwisty articles on candy.

  • Don't Eat the Oil ran after Halloween 2010 and remains the most popular HealthTwisty post.
  • Snack Attack is about gummy treats masquerading as healthy treats.
  • Yes, Diet Affects Attention. Really. explains some of the research linking artificial colors/flavors/preservatives and other components of processed foods with attention and behavioral issues.

And I love A Story about Bees, which provides anecdotes about how we, as a society, often pay more attention to how foodstuffs affect our animals than how they affect our kids.

So happy reading, make reasonable choices, and have a ghoulish good time out there on the 31st!


Image from Visit Sleepy Hollow

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