When I became a parent, Halloween down right enraged me. The mamabear in me was horrified - outraged, even - at the thought of allowing my children to go door-to-door to receive poison. Poison! Let’s call a spade a spade... sugar = poison. We all know it to be true.
Are you rolling your eyes at me? Or are you joining in on my war cry? Stay with me... I want to share with you how I have made peace with Halloween.
The whole Halloween thing made me erupt. I was being asked to violate one of my fundamental core values - supporting the health of kids! Hell no! I thought. As much as I wanted to be able to, I just could not chill out about it….
But what was a hyper-health-conscious-stick-in-the-mud-nutritionist-mom to do?
Was I going to be that mom who turned off the lights and forbid her kids to trick or treat? Was I going to whisk them away to a cabin in the woods until it all passed?
I thought about it, but nope... those didn’t seem to be viable options this year.
Watching my kids have a costume party together on the living room floor, make up scary rhymes, decorate the windows with glow-in-the-dark spider webs, carve pumpkins.... it is all undeniably adorable and their excitement is contagious.
So what I did instead was shift my perspective. And that has made all the difference.
Festivals are important for children. Having predictable rituals throughout the year helps them mark the passage of time. This provides structure for them, which in turn provides comfort. So, we anticipate the arrival of Halloween and talk about it as a festival that helps shuttle in the winter season and the longer nights. We bring the tradition of lighting candles back to our dinner table and pull out our warm PJs again.
We were thrilled to find out, when we moved here 3 years ago, that we had landed in a community that comes together to celebrate Halloween. It started quite simply - over a decade ago - when several families with young children decided to meet in the park and have a party. This initiative has grown into a yearly event. Hundreds of families and a handful of local musicians now gather at the park every Halloween evening and have a costume parade. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s festive. We dance. We gawk at costumes. We see our friends. We trick or treat a little on the way home. The parade has become the focus of our Halloween. We were lucky to stumble into this, but it’s never too late to start a tradition in your own community. It can be a particularly helpful strategy if you have a child on a special diet who can not have candy.
This worked wonderfully last year and I think we’ll be able to pull it off again this year. Beyond that, I’m not sure. But we will certainly try... cause it’s a stroke of genius (kudos to whoever thought of it). The Switch Witch, or the Halloween Witch, is a kind old witch who loves candy. She is too shy to come out on Halloween with everyone else, so she waits until everyone is in bed and then she scavenges for the left overs. If you leave her an offering of candy, she will leave you a gift in return. We tell our kids that they can keep as many candies as the number of years they are old, and that is is then customary to leave her the rest. In the morning there is a gift waiting for them and the candy is gone.
Sugar kills beneficial bacteria and feeds pathogenic yeast in the gut, robs the body of minerals and suppresses immune cells (and that’s just the sugar part of the candy! We'll talk about the additives, GMO-ness, and colours another time!) So, to be ready for that we increase the probiotics and boost the immune-supportive and mineral-rich foods this time of year.
I make a lot of bone broth (great for minerals and immune health), I make elderberry syrup, sprinkle Camu powder everywhere I can to boost vitamin C, I give them Deep Immune for Kids (my favourite immune booster), I stay vigilant with the Cod Liver Oil and probiotic drinks.
If you can't do all this through food, you can turn to supplements such as a multi mineral mix, a vitamin C, magnesium and vitamin D. Check out this post for my suggestions on how to pick supplements and to get access to my specific recommendations.
Sugar also puts the body on a blood sugar roller coaster ride which can lead to severe sugar crashes even the next day. So we make sure breakfast on November 1st is high in protein and I make sure lots of snacks made with healthy fat and protein are available. This helps get blood sugar back into balance after the gorge of candy.
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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