By Monica Luhar
Besides ghosts, goblins, and evil witches, Halloween is the time for kids to rot their teeth out and satisfy their ultimate sugar rush. When I was a child, my parents would always triple-check the candy I had collected in my trick-or-treat bag to make sure that some creepy person didn’t poison me with drugs. At that time, I was angry at my parents for discriminating against Pop Rocks and Butterfingers. Likewise, I was disappointed that Homer Simpson was able to pig out in front of the TV screen while gorging down on delicious Butterfingers. I wasn’t even allowed to touch, smell, or eat anything that was slightly unwrapped or in a bright fluorescent package. My parents only let me consume healthy “parent-approved” raisin snacks and about five out the 200 + approved candies.
Little did I know, my parents have probably saved me from spending time behind bars. British studies now show that consuming candy and sugary sweets frequently during early childhood may actually increase the likelihood of higher crime rates during adulthood. The study followed a batch of 10-year-old youngsters in 1970 which were then surveyed again about 20 years later to see if they had committed a crime. The correlation provided that those with multiple candy intakes a day had seemingly high crime records. Of course, the study didn’t end there. Researchers further pushed to see if there were other confounding variables which could explain the candy and crime-linked phenomenon.
These confounding variables led to the realization that perhaps giving disobedient children instant attention (in the form of candy) actually leads to less of a control factor in their adult lives and an increase in aggressive behavior.
We’ve all seen that all-too-familiar ice cream truck circling our old elementary schools, targeting the next batch of impatient children with loads of cash from granny and grandpa and a sweet tooth to boot.
What we probably didn’t know at the time was that Wonka’s Laffy Taffy contained high fructose corn syrup, loads of food coloring, and plenty of spoonfuls of sugar that would eventually make us feel lethargic and moody. Excessive sugar intake is linked to increased weight gain and a temporary feeling of satisfaction. Additionally, there is little to no healthy nutrition facts listed on candy bars. They are filled with sugar and added calories.
Children want instant gratification and they certainly want things at the spur of the moment. I’m sure that sometime during your early years, you plotted to whine, kick, and scream at your parents while they were busy paying the bills or making an important phone call. Like any parent, they probably acquiesced and decided to let you have that pack of gummy bears on the kitchen counter thinking it would be harmless. Enticing designs and colors on cereal boxes and candies capture children’s attentions. Conniving marketing tricks even attach glow-in-the dark Hannah Montana collectibles and toys in hopes of making a profit. Of course, parents try their best to prevent their kids from seeing the junk food aisle. If you have ever seen the movie “Daddy Day Care,” you know for a fact that children just won’t settle for broccoli or carrots. You know for a fact that children will go for pink marshmallow balls any day.
On the positive side, some healthy ways to reduce confection consumption for children (and yourself) would be to create a healthy parfait with a dash of Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s (just a healthy dose.) Pack on some delicious fruits and you have yourself your own healthy treat. Even a little speck of cinnamon or pumpkin spice does the trick. There’s always a lovely trip to Yogurtland. You can never frown upon yogurt. A serving of “Fresh Strawberry” yogurt has about 232 calories less than a Snickers bar. It’s probably a healthier alternative besides pigging out and eating a whole Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bowl with Snickers candy chunks sprinkled over it. A co-worker of mine actually had to test-taste an entire line of Ben and Jerry ice cream. (After a while it gets to the point where it tastes like you’re eating cow dung).
So the next time you hand out sugary treats to kids during Halloween, think again and come up with a few healthy alternatives just in case.