HALLOWEEN IS MY NIGHTMARE. There is enough sugar-laden artificial crap that gets handed around to sink a battleship (or three). The battleships in this case are our most highly prized possessions- our children- and somehow firing copious amounts of ammunition at them until they raise the white the flag in defeat (illness) is totally acceptable and even celebrated. Sugar and junk food generally has become so ubiquitous that it sometimes appears that it’s the only way that people know how to demonstrate their love. It is woven into the very fabric of our culture, with Halloween taking the spotlight. The tradition may have started out with small offerings of nuts and currants, a far cry from today’s supersized fluorescent coloured bounties.
What’s so bad about a handful of lollies? Aren’t I overreacting? Let’s look at the science. The human body is designed to consume only SMALL amounts of unrefined naturally sweet whole foods (such as fruit) or SMALL amounts of unrefined concentrated sweeteners (eg raw honey, maple syrup). This is especially so with children as their bodies are smaller so the impact is more acute. The human body is NOT designed to consume PROCESSED sugar (i.e. bleached and stripped of all minerals), high fructose sweeteners or artificial flavours, colours and preservatives as these things simply didn't exist when our genes were set some 2.6m years ago (which haven’t changed much, if at all, since).
You may beg to differ (or your sweet tooth may want you too!) but that’s just the reality of our anatomy and physiology. When we consume things we are not designed to eat, the resulting mismatch causes sickness that manifests in numerous ways, both great and small. And sweet foods prime our childrens’ palates for more sweet foods, perpetuating the cycle. The dangers of sugar and artificial ingredients are now well-known even in the mainstream that I have no need to expand in song and verse on their deleterious effects but the punch line is that high amounts of sugar in the diet lead to high levels of triglycerides and insulin in the blood - risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. A recent Yale study indicated that nearly one in 4 kids between the ages of 4 and 18 have pre-diabetes. Sobering. You can read more about sugar in one of my previous posts here. Health guru Chris Kresser in the USA has written numerous papers on the issue (search www.chriskresser.com), David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison is a terrific text on the subject and our very own Sarah Wilson has written a book or 2 on why she quit sugar.
But isn’t a little bit of poison good for you? Doesn’t it build up resistance? Whatever doesn’t kill you must make you stronger, right? Unfortunately, refined sugar and junk food are not hormetic. They do not induce a positive adaptation that help us adapt and evolve in the same way that, say, exercise (which is also a stressor) does.
Fortunately there now exists an abundance of healthy nutrient-dense naturally sweetened treats that kids can enjoy in moderation without the negative consequences of the commercial variety. I tell my kids if you are going to eat sweet foods eat the BEST QUALITY SWEET FOODS YOU CAN GET because life is too short to eat crap food. Junk food is called precisely that because it's junk i.e. rubbish and "you are not rubbish bins!!"
So here's what I suggest:
1. Fill them up on a nutritious snack or dinner before embarking on trick or treating so that they are not starving when entering the battlefield.
2. Take a basket filled with some healthy nutrient-dense treats with you for kids to munch instead of the junk that they will be given. Examples include my date coconut balls, power bars, raw dark chocolate or make your own healthy treats eg chocolate crackles made with activated buckwheat, raw cacao powder and maple syrup (recipe below).
3. When you get home swap every piece of crap with a real food treat of equivalent weight which can be apportioned over the next few days or weeks. This is not about deprivation! This is about providing a healthy alternative to every piece of junk.
4. Ask for more TRICKS than treats. (Yes there is a ‘Trick’ part to the question that gets entirely overlooked!). You might be surprised to see what tricks are up some people’s sleeves! ;)
5. Educate! Educate! Educate! I can’t stress how important it is to educate your kids about the effects of junk food versus real food. Remind them that you want them to grow and function properly, so that they can perform their best to reach their true potential. Tell them that you want them to be tall, strong, robust, breathtakingly beautiful, cavity-free, super smart, calm and happy, and that eating junk food will rob them of that potential. Tell them that they wont run as fast, hit the ball as far or dance as beautifully if they are not fuelling their body with the very thing that bodies need to run on- nutrient-rich real food! If they love sports, you may like to suggest that they read my blog post on how the Sydney Roosters won the 2013 Grand Final by switching to a traditional wholefoods diet and eschewing all processed foods, and that more and more professional athletes are doing the same world-wide. Encourage them to make good food choices and remind them that they always have a CHOICE as to what they should put into their body. No one is putting a gun to their heads to eat junk food and simply because others are eating it doesn’t mean that they should follow the crowd. The “don’t follow the crowd” notion is something often discussed in my son’s class at school and I wish I had this sort of education growing up that it’s ok to take your own path and not follow the crowd if going with the crowd doesn’t resonate with you. Encourage your chipmunks to check in with their bodies in the hours and days after eating junk food to see how it made them feel and function. The effects are often direct and clear. This is not a discussion on ethics or morals, or right or wrong. This is simply about cause and effect.
6. Remind them to focus on the non-food related aspects of any given social event eg fun, play, connection, costumes and ridiculously scary makeup. Look no further than BEET KVASS to make interesting facial impressions!
Below is my dead-easy and delicious recipe for no-crap chocolate crackles. They don’t require any baking. Perhaps you and your kids might like to make these this weekend? If you make them please tag me in your photos!
1 cup activated cinnamon buckwheat
1 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/16 tsp unrefined salt (optional)
Add chocolate sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and gently heat while stirring or whisking to combine the ingredients. Add the buckwheat and stir through until well combined.
Add spoonfuls of the mixture into paper cupcake moulds and freeze or refrigerate to harden.