As a healthcare provider, I see it all the time. The community in general thinks that the cooler weather and kids back in school must inevitably mean that sickness will soon follow. But when you take a step back and consider the actual cause and contributors to illness – there are a lot of health swaps we can make to help prevent what many think is the inevitable.
The flu doesn’t magically return from summer vacation in the fall – and the common cold doesn’t return just because the weather gets cold. All of these germs are around us all of the time! So, what makes fall and winter different? Our health habits often cause our immune system to take a dive – especially increased sugar intake, which seems to start right after…..you guessed it – Halloween. And it lasts through Valentine’s Day, or so it seems!
Since most illness and disease feeds on sugar – reducing sugar is a sure way to help out the immune system. But replacing real sugar with artificial sweeteners opens a whole new can or worms in the health problems it creates. In the end, making a shift in the foods we routinely consume and striving to make the majority of those food choices healthy ones is what will impact our long-term health the most. This Halloween, you can make an impact on your family and those around you in a variety of simple ways.
Trick-or-Treating is simply too fun to pass up. Last year, we enjoyed the group photos and family experience our neighborhood creates around the festivities. Some of the adults were home handing out the treats, while others were out keeping an eye on their little ones. We did a bit of both and enjoyed every moment. At some point, though, I ran home for a forgotten item, and quickly laid out the “Switch.”
Upon our return home at the conclusion of Trick-or-Treating, the Switch Witch had left gifts for each of our kids, along with a note. They must exchange the majority of the candy (yes, they keep a few pieces) for those gifts, with the remainder being packed up and sent off to the troops through an affiliation our chiropractic office has with Soldier’s Angels – Treats for Troops.
An initiative of Food Allergy Research & Education, The Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM focuses on raising awareness of food allergies and promotes the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters through the Halloween season. Teal is the color of food allergy awareness, and a teal-painted pumpkin or #tealpumpkinproject sign can be hung to show you have non-food items available.
Think non-food treats will result in your pumpkins being smashed by less-than-grateful trick-or-treaters? That doesn’t have to be the case. Consider these food alternatives: glow sticks, bubbles, bouncy balls, stickers, slime. The possibilities are endless – we usually shop Oriental Trading Company online for inexpensive but still fun items.
Soldiers’ Angels has a program called “Treats for Troops” that will ship your donated candy to deployed service members around the world or distribute to veterans in VA Hospitals across the country. All you have to do is load up the candy you don’t want your kids eating, and drop off at one of their many locations. This year, they’ve partnered with www.HalloweenCandyBuyBack.com, who will continue to update a list of drop-off locations near you.
Local health-conscious businesses often like to join in the after-Halloween attempt to promote health and wellness by offering specials or gifts in exchange for your excess sweets! Our chiropractic office offers a discounted rate on Pediatric appointments when candy is brought in. The more sugar a child eats, the more their immune system takes a dive – so we’ll do whatever we can to help keep a child healthy! Many dental offices also offer a buy-back or exchange program after Halloween. Check with a health care provider near you for opportunities!
Treats are a staple for Halloween – after all, “Trick or Treat” just wouldn’t be the same without them! Kids are typically happy keeping a few items – and parents happier if they’re somewhat nutritious. Healthier options are available most places if you look closely enough – including at big box stores including Sam’s Club and Costco. Small packages of raisins or other dried fruit are an easy item to throw in the treat bucket. Trail mix can also be a good option – but isn’t allergy-friendly. Organic gummy snacks are typically made with allergy-safe ingredients, and a snack almost all kids love. Along the same line, organic suckers are also easy to find and fairly cost-effective. A pack of gum using xylitol sweetener is usually a pretty safe bet – we like the brand Spry at our house, which comes in several flavor options. Enjoy Life brand has several treats that use non-dairy chocolate – many of their products gluten free. While these items may not address every food allergy, they do make for a healthier “candy” option than many of the main-stream go-to’s, which are typically full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and other ingredients we’d all rather keep out of our kids!