Over the past year, I’ve definitely fallen into the fuddy-duddy crowd who thinks that kids in this country are way over-sugared. When the subject comes up, I don’t shy away from sharing my views with friends and even new acquaintances, and I’ve written about it several times on here. Often, fellow moms agree with me that there’s just too many little sugary “treats” coming at our kids on an almost daily basis, but there’s always plenty of boisterous defectors, including my own parents, who lean toward the “let them be kids” sentiment and “everything in moderation” mantra. Those of us who limit our children’s intake of sweets and junk food in general are often accused of being overly anxious helicopter parents, and if we dare to serve an organic cupcake with dye-free frosting, we become the brunt of continuous jokes.
While some parents may roll their eyes at me, we’re offering up little toys this year instead of Halloween candy, and I won’t apologize for it. Because despite our views on moderation and sugar consumption and what that really consists of, when you look at the real numbers, something else besides moderation is going on here. The CDC reports that 40 percent of the average adolescent’s daily diet consists of empty calories from sugar and fat. So that means almost half of what the average child eats in this country comes from food that offers little, if any, nutritional value. Approximately half of those empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk. Sadly, the bad news just keeps piling up.
Most U.S. youth do not eat the daily recommendation of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and most children are consuming way more in sodium than they should. And when it comes to soda pop, the majority of kids consume more soda in a day than milk, with the average adolescent boy drinking about 22 ounces of soda versus 10 ounces of milk each day.
These depressing statistics are clearly impacting our kids’ health. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. According to the CDC, in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. While recent reports have disputed the old myth that fat from sources like butter and red meat was making us gain weight, many now argue sugar is to blame for many of our healthcare woes, and it seems to make a lot of sense.
By all means, my kids will trick-or-treat on Halloween night, and I won’t be that parent hovering over them, ordering them to not take a single bite until I can sort through it all and pick out what they’re allowed to eat. I won’t fret over fair-trade chocolate, organic lollipops, and dye-free candy corn. But I’ll happily accept any divergent houses that offer up non-candy treats to my kids, knowing they’ll get plenty throughout the night. No one’s breaking anybody’s spirit here by being the exception to the rule, and I’d venture to say most kids will love getting the occasional glow stick, gooey sticky eyeball, or pot of Play-Doh. Or our house could wind up being the one kids avoid for generations to come. We’ll just have to see.
Whether parents stand in solidarity with me or think my health-conscious ways are spoiling the party, there are a few advantages for all parties involved in me offering up non-candy trick-or-treat options.
1. Parents of kids with food allergies, which are sadly 1 in 13 now, can rest easy knowing there’s one less bullet to dodge when they trick-or-treat at our house. The Teal Pumpkin Project, by the way, is a great way to alert families that your house is allergy-friendly.
2. My über-childish selection of kiddie toys will hopefully deter any pesky teenagers who still have the gall to trick-or-treat, many not even in costumes(!), from knocking on my door again.
3. Most toy offerings can be tailored to a variety of ages — slime for the older kids, Play-Doh for the little toddlers who really can’t be gnawing on a jawbreaker.
4. I’m doing my part, even in the tiniest way, to save on future dentist bills.
5. After kids visit our house, parents will have one less piece of candy to fight over, manipulate their kids over, throw away, or donate. I hear you can also do science experiments with Halloween candy, but that seems like a project for a less-tired mom.
I do not judge the houses offering up all ranges of candy, and I think if we all went the no-candy route, it would be a sad state of affairs. But I really don’t see anything wrong with giving kids, and parents, another option. Sure, the toys we hand out will eventually get thrown away as well, but at least no teeth will be hurt in the process.More On