Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halloween's Sugar Demon ;-)

Images of Halloween are giving me chills this year. It's not the witches, skeletons, or tombstones that have me shaking--it's the processed sugar and gluten. Piles of it will assault us over the coming weeks, and somehow, I'll have to convince my sugar-free, gluten-free child that he can't eat it.

Some people roll their eyes at parents who are selective about their children's diets, but they're not the ones who live with the consequences. A gluten-sensitive child becomes unwell after the consumption of wheat. Children with neurological problems (and even neuro-typical children) can become agitated after a good sugar buzz. Whether a food allergy causes an anaphylactic reaction or a sensitivity causes stomach pain, the state of our food supply leaves many families struggling to keep their children well.

In past years, my son was young enough that I could scoop his candy when we got home. A year ago, he was assuaged by home-made pumpkin muffins. Now, even though his indulgence is rare, he's an avid chocoholic . When his teacher asked him what vegetable he'd bring to contribute to the class pot of soup, he insisted that he'd bring chocolate. How am I going to manage the candy issue this year?

There were no forbidden foods in my childhood home. My folks happily embraced the joys of Kraft Dinner, Sloppy Joes, and Cheese Whiz on Wonder Bread. As a result, I no longer trust foods that require capitalization. In high school, my best friend (whose mother made bread from scratch) and I would swap lunches. I would have traded my nitrate-saturated Hot Rod for her bran muffin any day and she happily obliged, eager to have a taste of processed meat product. I wonder...will Kieran be the kid who trades my labour-intensive, gluten-free banana bread for his buddy's Joe Louis? By forbidding certain foods, do we run the risk of making them more appealing?

I definitely think so. However, I don't really have a choice. I'd rather have a kid who sneaks a treat now and then (and experiences the unfortunate consequences) than to have him chronically unwell.

But it's not just food-sensitive kids who are affected. Celebrity paediatrician, Dr. Bob Sears, claims that the two weeks after Halloween are the busiest in his office. He attributes this to the excessive consumption of processed sugar, an immune suppressant. Maybe we all need to rethink the gratuitous use of candy at this otherwise enjoyable time of year.

As we discuss my son's latest costume idea--this week, he wants to be a pirate--I wonder if it's fair to let him trick-or-treat only to take most of his treats. Now that he's aware of candy, and longs for it, trick-or-treating seems cruel. Granted, there are many thoughtful neighbours who know our son and have different options: play dough, stickers, pencils, story books, toothbrushes.

Some people are opting out of the candy madness, holding parties at their homes instead. I've considered this, but I think trick-or-treating is about more than candy. It's the thrill of dressing up and going out in the crisp fall air. It's the excitement of going door-to-door and seeing the decorating efforts of our community. It's the buzz in the air as ghosts and goblins surge up and down the sidewalks.

I've found other solutions that I hope will work such as using candy as currency for non-food items. We will also cut down on the number of houses visited and make sure tummies are full by inviting friends over for pizza beforehand. And there are other ways for treats to dwindle before a young pirate can take inventory of his treasure...

So count us in for trick-or-treating. Bring on the candy--I've got a plan. That's what moms are for.

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