Nutrition and health expert Dr. Doni Wilson explains how simple choices can make a huge difference in your health and your children’s health—even on Halloween!
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and sucralose) are strongly associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol, fatty liver, as well as IBS (digestive issues), mood and focus issues (ADHD, Alzheimer’s, anxiety), hormone imbalances (PCOS, infertility), and cancer—even in children. If you’d like to learn more, check out my blog post about The Sugar Challenge, which includes a link to the documentary called FED UP.
With all of this in mind, it is important that we find ways to minimize intake of sugar, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners. This week, with Halloween approaching, I’m going to share five tips for decreasing exposure to unhealthy sweeteners and at the same time keeping the “treats” in the holiday.
- Choose healthier candy. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as “healthier” candy. The difference is that instead of using high fructose corn syrup—with its associated health risks—healthier candies are made with organic cane sugar/juice, xylitol, or stevia. Organic cane sugar, palm sugar, and maple sugar will still trigger an insulin response and raise blood sugar levels, but the glycemic index (the rate at which it raises blood sugar) is much less (about half as much) than with refined white sugar. Xylitol, on the other hand, has only a minimal effect on insulin and has actually been shown to help prevent dental cavities. Stevia, the best of all the sweetener options, does not trigger an insulin response at all.
Here are a few examples of “healthier” candy:
- Choose a different type of food for “treats.” While it may seem less exciting to receive a non-candy treat, I find that my daughter and her friends actually welcome a bag of organic apple slices or gluten-free pretzels. Especially when they spend a couple hours walking around the neighborhood, and their blood sugar levels start to drop, by choosing fruit or a gluten-free snack over a sugar-filled candy, they will have less of a spike in blood sugar and less of a craving for more sugar later. Even better is if the non-candy treat contains protein.
Here are a few examples:
- Non-food treats count too. Fun stickers, gems, and colorful pencils can make a child’s Halloween extra special, and they don’t impact blood sugar levels at all.
- Buy your child’s candy from them. Consider offering your child an amount of money in exchange for their bag of candy. Then they get to spend the money on something else they would like to get. Or you can just do an exchange for an item they’ve been wanting. Kids are sometimes only interested in a few bites of sweetness, and much more interested in an item they can use day after day.
- Choose protein with your treats. If you or your child does have a sweet treat, then be sure to have protein with it. And before sending your children out trick-or-treating, make sure they eat dinner that contains protein—for example: chicken, turkey, nuts, lentils, or fish. By having protein with sugar and/or carbs, it slows down the rise in blood sugar (fiber helps with this, too) and prevents a spike—and then drop—in blood sugar from occurring. It also help you to feel full so that you are less likely to want more than your insulin can manage. Learn more about stabilizing blood sugar levels here.
There you have it! I hope that inspires you to make a few choices that can make a significant difference in your health—and your children’s health. Even though Halloween is only one day out of the year, I look at it as an opportunity to make choices that help stabilize and optimize your health. It is easier to stay on track with your health goals by sticking to these choices than to have to recover after a day filled with sugar.
Learn more about what it looks like when your carbohydrate metabolism is out of balance and how to get it back on track by reading my book, The Stress Remedy. After all, sugar and imbalanced blood sugar is a stress on your body.
Have a happy—and safe—Halloween!
24th October 2014