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Healthy Halloween Starts at Home

I had the great fortune of interviewing Dr. Keith Kantor recently.
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Dr. Kantor holds a PhD in Nutritional Sciences, serves on the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Committee and is the author of What Matters. Dr. Kantor is passionate about teaching healthy lifestyles to families across the nation. He’s currently working on a children’s book that will help teach youngsters how to eat healthier.

The conversation turned from nutrition itself to Halloween and all the unhealthiness it brings to the table. Dr. Kantor was kind enough to share an excerpt from one of his previous interviews for us to help guide us to a healthy Halloween. You can view the full interview on his website, where he also has great nutritional tips and more.

What are some healthy snack alternatives to Halloween candy?

Halloween candy is typically processed full of dye, high fructose corn syrup and excessive amounts of sugar and other harmful preservatives. If you want to still give out candy go for the higher quality brands that are sweetened without high fructose corn syrup like Newman’s Own chocolate or Annie’s Organic fruit snacks. These companies typically have Halloween candy available during the season. The bottom line is sugar is sugar and both children and adults should not consume excessive amounts of sugar at all, even the alternative organic brands should still only be consumed in moderation.

With Halloween coming up in October, prior to the day, are here any strategies you would suggest to parents who want to curb Halloween excess?

Don’t buy your candy until you are ready to pass it out, if you do buy it early hide it from your kids (and yourself) until Halloween day. Having a piece here and there the days leading up to Halloween can put you at risk for increased sugar cravings due to the fluctuating insulin levels from the extra sugar.

Is there a certain strategy you would recommend for using with kids after Halloween? For example, some say limit the amount of sweets the child has each day or let them overdo it and then decide to curtail on their own or some even recommend that you throw some of the candy out (with or without the child’s knowledge).

There are a couple of different strategies, tell your kids to pick out the candy that they do not like and donate it to school or church and then let them pick out 1-2 small pieces a day. If you do not want them to have the candy for a long period of time after Halloween then tell them the “Candy Fairy” came by to pick up the candy and left you a special toy to say thank you for giving her all of the candy.

How can you get the most out of the trick-or-treating experience?

WALK! It blows my mind that parents actually drive their kids from house to house to load up on sugary candy. At least make it a physical event for the entire family. Mom and dad should walk along with the trick-or-treaters. This will limit the amount of candy you will get, and it will physically tire the kids out as they should be tired after an exciting night of trick-or-treating.

Don’t forget to dress them in a costume that allows for movement, running from door-to-door is a great form of exercise and should not be hindered by a costume that does not allow them to keep up with their friends.

What are some of the best tips you know for curbing a sweet tooth?

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Try not to go too long without eating; being “famished” can cause you to eat anything in sight because you are looking to bring up your blood sugars from going too long without food. If you eat regularly and still get sugar cravings then make sure you are getting adequate healthy fats and protein at each meal and snack. Avoid eating exclusively carbohydrates; examples of carbohydrate only meals would be cereal, waffles, pasta, granola bars, etc. Examples of meals that are more balanced include an egg omelet with veggies and a side of steel cut oats [or] a grilled chicken salad with oil and vinegar dressing (full fat is always better then fat free, fat free tends to have excessive amounts of preservatives that will make you more hungry in the long run).

Is it true that the more sugar we eat, the more we crave? If so, please explain how this works in the body.

Yes, sugar sends your insulin levels up or “spike” and gives you a very temporary boost in energy and serotonin (the good mood hormone). Following the spike the insulin levels drop or “crash” and during that crash your body feels lethargic and will look for more energy typically from sugar. It is a vicious cycle for the metabolism. A spike and crash in insulin levels will cause your body to store body fat and if you consume sugar regularly for a prolong period of time you may be at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Do you propose moderation or elimination when it comes to sweets for kids?

Kids are going to naturally enjoy sweets, I propose quality. Getting their sweet fix from fruits and other all natural sources like raw honey or nut butters should keep them happy without putting them at risk for any health problem. Eliminating foods that are processed with syrups is great, but allowing them all natural sugars is still okay in moderation.

What are some of the health risks of eating too many sweets?

Poor mental focus or concentration, weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, to name a few.

Do you advocate the “plate method” in deciding how much of what food groups kids should have each day?

Yes, this is a perfect visual for children to use at each meal. Fill up half of their plate with fruits and vegetables (more veggies of course), a quarter of lean protein, and a quarter or high quality carbohydrates.

What are some guidelines for some reasonable portion sizes?

The size of your fist is a great guide, as children grow so does their fist. But, non-starchy vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc.) consumption is unlimited!

I’ve heard it said that kids don’t need to eat as much as parents think they need during the course of the day. Do you find that’s true?

Yes, if you let your children eat high quality foods until they are satisfied and when they are hungry you will see that they will eat exactly what their bodies’ need. We run into problems when kids are trained to finish their plate or they “hold out” because they are waiting for a sugary dessert. Encourage your kids to finish their vegetables and try to break the dessert habit.


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