Between a Halloween party here at the office on Friday and my girlie’s school carnival on Saturday, I’m not sure I can undo the damage with did this weekend on the candy front. But there’s still time to make the actual day a lot less scary.
Herewith our healthy living guru Holly Davis of Clean Fresh Living tells us how.
By Holly Davis
I love Halloween. The fresh chill in the air, front porches decorated with pumpkins, ghosts and goblins hanging out with spiders, witches and skeletons. Some neighbors go all out with a “National Lampoon’s” version, featuring blow up decor, nightmare spider webs, pop up cemeteries, laser light and sound shows. It’s all in super good fun, but there are some seriously scary aspects of Halloween too, and I am not talking about the Grim Reaper.
At Halloween, families purchase approximately 598 million pounds of candy and most of that contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings, dyes, colorings, preservatives, and lead (not to mention that it’s high in fat and sugar and other toxic additives).
In our “everything in moderation” society, it’s worth examining the effects of even small amounts of these toxic ingredients .
Research shows that ingesting hydrogenated oils even once can immediately harm the heart and affect its function, and it’s not alone. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, hyperactivity, and becomes like a drug to the brain, causing it to crave more and more. Artificial flavorings are highly toxic to the body, commonly causing allergic reactions and stomachaches. Artificial dyes or colorings cause ADD symptoms, allergic reactions, and many are carcinogenic. Just look at past artificial dyes that were once deemed safe by the FDA and later banned due to liver cancer, heart, and kidney damage. (You can look up food additive ratings on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website.)
Lead can cause damage to the nervous system and brain and cognitive decline. Carmel coloring, when processed using ammonia, becomes a possible carcinogen, and preservatives such as BHT and BHA, “glues”, binders, and other function performing chemicals are linked to a variety of diseases, including cancer, as well as causing immediate allergic reactions, inflammation, and toxicity in the body. BHT and BHA, used in a variety of products like candy, butter, animal foods, rubber, and cosmetics are fat soluble, which means they bio-accumulate in the fat cells of the human body causing growth in cancer cells when they are metabolized. And then there are genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). I would estimate well over 90% of Halloween candy contains GMOs from high fructose corn syrup and oils alone. They are lurking in Hershey bars, Snickers, Twizzlers, Starburst, Sour Patch Kids, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Haribo Gummy Bears to name a few.
Ghouls are also hiding in the cheap plastic masks, toys, and the slimy, squishy, gooey products that are made of toxic plasticizers and other gender bending phthalates. In addition, the makeup frequently sold with costumes to make ghost-like faces, blackened eyes, and blood gushing wounds is also incredibly toxic. This poison is commonly used at carnivals, fairs and parties where kids get their faces painted into tigers, cheetahs, and fairy princesses. When Campaign For Safe Cosmetics tested 10 of the top selling face paint brands, all 10 came back positive for lead. Lead. A poison. A neurotoxin, sitting on the beautiful face of a child, but outlawed in the paint on our walls.
But never fear, there’s an organic, natural alternative to all this scariness, so let’s do a “Halloween Detox” before the big day, shall we?
Let’s start with a few non-terrifying tips:
Fuel up — Prior to Trick-or-Treating, serve an early dinner high in lean protein such as grilled organic chicken breast with grilled mixed organic veggies, a side of black beans seasoned with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onions, diced mild pepper and garlic (all organic), and spinach tortillas. A meal high in protein will help keep blood sugar levels stable later when kids might be munching on their loot while trick-or-treating.
Offer an alternative — Have a “better than” dessert to offer after dinner. This might still be a sugar-heavy treat but sans all the toxic dyes, oils, preservatives, and other scary stuff. I love to set out Halloween cookies because they also serve as decor for my table. You can use a variety of designs that kids get excited about and hopefully fill-up on before they have other not so friendly options.
Give out treats not tricks – I love to hand out mini pumpkins, tangerines decorated to look like little jack-o-lanterns, small water bottles (kids get thirsty), non-plastic toys from Oriental Trading Company, individual Play Dough, reflective armbands, or organic candies from Whole Foods (gummy bears, fruit leathers, lollipops, and chocolate squares are faves). (Remember, buying organic means no GMOs.) Oh and I always have a few greenies on hand for any four-legged “hounds of hell” that might be walking around.
Skip face and body paints – Instead of messy, toxic face paint, opt for costumes that get the point across without all the bad stuff.
Layer — Dress with an undershirt, bodysuit, or other thin protective covering under all costumes to keep chemically treated fabric from direct contact with the skin.
Keep it short — Limit Trick-or-Treating to 30 minutes for small ones or a little longer for older kids. Plan other activities for the night such as bobbing for apples and a “monster mash dance off.”
Have an “exit strategy” for candy — My kids get to trick-or-treat, but the candy doesn’t stay around for long. I make each kids a special personalized treat bag that I trade them for their candy. I use a cute felt Halloween designed bag (I usually get them at Target) add some toys, games, notes pads, stickers, maybe a CD or iTunes Gift Card, and always some organic candy. Trust me, they are always happy Goblins.
Start the dialogue — Most important, talk with your children prior to Halloween and educate them on the different chemicals, additives, and toxins in most candy. Let them know that sugar is a bad thing for the human body and that the more they have, the more their brains will crave. It is vital that children be taught the relationship between good food and good health. They will begin relating to food in a different way if you reinforce this. Children can easily understand that they are empowered by making good, healthy choices based on true nutrition and their bodies will become stronger and healthier as a result.
By educating people on what is being put into our food and thereby, put into our bodies, we can demand better. We can begin this Halloween by using alternative, wholesome, non-toxic treats and supporting our own health and the health of our precious little monsters.
 “Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751
Holly Pellham Davis is the founder of Clean Fresh Living, Inc., a service focused on educating consumers and families on the importance of healthy, organic, sustainable living for life and generations to come. You can hear more from Holly on her Clean Fresh Living blog, twitter, and Facebook.