By: Brooke Bloom Lam, CHC
Have you ever wondered how Halloween became centered around candy? Well, the custom of trick-or-treating started in the 1930s when children were given everything from homemade cookies and cake, to fruit, coins and toys. In the 1950s, candy manufacturers saw the marketing opportunity and started creating products for Halloween, which were seen as an affordable, convenient offering, and a safer alternative to homemade food from strangers.
Over the years, however, Halloween candy has become an issue for the increasing amounts of allergic children, as well as those with food intolerances and with chronic conditions who consume dairy and gluten-free type diets to help reduce inflammation in their systems. Other families, are just more apprehensive about the artificial additives and high sugar. In response, various brands have emerged with safer candy choices that are free of some or most allergens and that often have cleaner ingredients, less sugar, and leave out synthetic preservatives and artificial flavors and coloring.
Some of these cleaner - and tasty – commercial candy alternative brands include:
· UnReal – recommended for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and M&M fans
· Cocomels Caramels – organic, plant-based caramels
· Yum Earth – gummy bears, lollipops, and licorice (gluten-free and organic, unlike Twizzlers)
· Torie & Howard Chewie-Fruities – recommended for Starburst lovers
These products are often available at Whole Foods but make sure to read the food labels for your specific needs. If you order in advance, NoWheyChocolate.com, has many Halloween options that are free of the top 9 allergens, artificial flavors and dyes, ranging from bite-sized candy bars, to Halloween themed chocolate lollipops, and Junior Mint type alternatives.
While having these alternatives is great in moderation, they still don’t completely help with the sugar overload our kids experience after gorging on large loads of candy after Halloween. Sugar contributes to many childhood conditions including obesity, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and tooth decay. More immediate effects include hyperactivity, reduced focus, and mood swings. As the holiday approaches, candy alternatives like Good Health’s Monster-shaped Veggie Chips often pop-up. Recipes including banana ghosts and pumpkin clementines are easy, healthier to add to your Halloween gatherings. After the teal-pumpkin initiative, which began to help identify houses that had allergy friendly items to give out to allergic children, many families started offering glow-sticks, toys, and other non-edible alternatives. These are all options that would help reduce our children’s sugar load this year.
That being said, kids love trick-or-treating. Heck, even I love trick-or-treating with them. Although candy has become such an inextricable part of Halloween for so many, there are ways to enjoy trick-or-treating while sparing the sugar indulgence. In my house, we create a “store” with small Halloween themed gifts I’ve collected leading up to the holiday. I've found books, socks, coloring books, toys, and usually add in a gift or two that my kids have been eyeing. Or, I go with the Roblox Robux gift cards (what my big kid really wants anyway). Each item is worth a certain amount of candy pieces and my kids love selecting items and happily hand over their candy payment in the process. I pre-purchase my own stash of the cleaner Halloween candy options listed above. I put some in my kids’ trick-or-treating bags before we even leave so they have a few things to munch on while we are out and save some for their lunch-boxes throughout the next few days. We then donate the collected candy stash to dentists and orthodontists who are collecting candy locally. It’s a win/win for us all.
We are living in an unhealthy time. Chronic health conditions are at an all-time high, especially in our children. If we want better for their future, it’s time we start teaching them how to enjoy life and occasions without the major food focus – especially on unhealthy food. There is so much about Halloween to enjoy – from selecting the costumes, to dressing up, seeing friends, having parties, watching scary movies. It doesn’t only have to be about the candy.
This year, I challenge you to come up with some safer options and help reduce your child’s load of sugar and unhealthy chemicals from traditional candy. I'd love to hear how it goes. If nothing else, your child’s teacher will thank you the next day.
Brooke Lam, mother of two, is an educator and Functional Medicine Coach with Keeping Families Well, empowering families to get to the root cause of chronic health issues and to attain optimal health and wellness goals.