Strategies for a Healthy Enjoyable Halloween!
Halloween is fun. ‘Trick or Treating’ develops patience, turn taking and a sense of community spirit. Nurturing happy memories of community-bonding for our multi-cultural children is essential. Each year, getting dressed up as Rex from Star Wars or Supermom with my bright red cape accompanying the children in my neighborhood for ‘Trick or Treat’ is an event I cherish.
Yet, my joy of seeing the joyous little angels, pirates and goblins with bags full of colourful candy is laced with apprehension. The side effects of artificial colouring such as Tartrazine, food additives, and the rampant use of banned food colours casts a long shadow on this evening.
Additional to the documented behavioral issues from red colour and sugar content, each year rashes, eczema, allergic coughs, asthma aggravate post Halloween. Children with ADHD, sensory and attention issues, are wired for more than 2 weeks after a Halloween binge. It continues till the ‘Trick or Treat’ stocks last!
The halloween basics: bright scrumptious marshmallows, candied eyeballs, skeletons, hamburgers and more are saturated with synthetic food colours. A careful study of the E numbers which denotes food additives and colourings is essential for protecting our children.
Much of these colourings are petroleum based. Some of the big baddies Tartrazine Orange, (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Azorubine red, (E122) are banned in other countries but still available in Asia. More recently various scientific studies testing children with food colourings and sugar have confirmed, without a doubt, the side-effects that we have been seeing clinically for years.
As parents what can we do? Let’s start with the candy we give out.
Choose white candy over orange, natural fruit flavoured over tongue painters or cola flavours. Healthy dairy milk chocolates are a better option than fluorescent eyeballs. Check the ingredients of even the best know brands as the profit-oriented companies tend to add in the cheaper nasties when the manufacturing unit is outside the parent country where the notorious food colouring is banned.
Working with our children, empowering each child with health consumer critical skills and moderation in eating habits is a chance for positive parenting each Halloween.
In my home we ‘barter’. After ‘Trick or Treat’, we sort the Halloween booty into 2 piles – good candy, bad candy. Bad candy includes synthetic dyes and no labeling. Each bad candy is then exchanged for a good candy with explanation. Children are happy as their booty stays the same size and they do appreciate the concept of ‘better quality’
Even with healthy candy, discuss the concept of ‘rationing’. Let the child consciously decide on how many of the sugary sweets he can have each week. Children are quite happy when applauded for their self-control.
Teach the children the E numbers. For todays generation knowing the critical ‘E’ numbers is as or more important than studying the times-table. The latter does not affect your health, neurological development or moods. Halloween candy consumption is an opportunity to teach life’s lessons worth learning young.
Together we can equip our children to enjoy life’s festivities the healthy way.
Dr. Sonal Hattangdi-Haridas
Happy Halloween to one and all from the Maya Team.
Printable List of Unhealthy Colouring
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SPANGLER, R., WITTKOWSKI, K. M., GODDARD, N. L., AVENA, N. M., HOEBEL, B. G. & LEIBOWITZ, S. F. 2004. Opiate-like effects of sugar on gene expression in reward areas of the rat brain. Brain Res Mol Brain Res, 124, 134-42.