When both of my children were born with food allergies, it changed our family traditions, cultural traditions and celebrated holidays. During our first Halloween celebration, where my youngest went trick or treating with all the other mini-monsters and goblins, it was obvious we needed a different plan. Those mini-snickers bars were out. That candy corn, skittles, and other chocolates – out, out, out. There would be no consuming of the sweets received in the orange plastic pumpkin. Little did I know that I was inadvertently saving my child from something far more dangerous then the wicked witch.
What is actually in that cute plastic pumpkin?
If you examine any of the ingredients in common processed sweets, you won’t find quality. You will find additives, chemical flavours and chemical colours. So what’s the big deal? “It’s just this one time of year! It’s only one night! I only let my child eat a few!” Those are a lot of the common responses I often receive. But – it is a big deal. It isn’t just one time and throughout a year, turns out, it isn’t only a few.
Last year our family counted the number of sweets we received during the month of October all the way from the 1 October to 31 October. When our tally ended, the children had received a combined quantity of over 1,200 processed sweets.
So what are families giving out this year? I went to the store to check out a few labels of commonly purchased items and listed some ingredients:
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
According to the Mayo Clinic, this trans fat is the WORST type of fat you can put in your body. It clogs arteries, builds up in your system, raises bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol, and increases your risk of heart disease.
Artificial colours (E110, 102, 133 Lakes)
These food additives supposedly make artificial sweets look better. Without them, you probably wouldn’t even touch it in the first place. E110 is otherwise known as Sunset Yellow FCF. In the UK Food Guide it describes the side effects of E110 to include “urticarial (hives), rhinitis (runny nose), nasal congestion, allergies, hyperactivity, kidney tumors, chromosomal damage, abdominal pain, nausea…” and much more.
This food additive is also known as tartrazine or more commonly FD&C Yellow. This synthetic chemical has a long laundry list of studied side effects such as hyperactivity, irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbances, and more.
This common blue food colouring is banned in Austria, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany with restrictions in the UK. It is known to cause hyperactivity and rashes in children along with DNA damage and tumours in animals. It is a listed human carcinogen by the United States EPA.
The most widely known flavouring is MSG, but the general reason for ‘flavouring’ is to create a chemical smell or sense on your tongue to either give or enhance current flavours in the food. For instance, some fast food companies add a chemical ‘flavouring’ of beef, so when you consume the hamburger or smell the burger, you will be more apt to think you are eating the real thing.
What can I do instead?
If you normally hand out candy, there are a couple of alternative options I go to each year. One year, I went to the local market to purchase inexpensive pens, booklets, and coin purses to hand out. If you want to contribute candy, try some of the options from Yummy Earth Organics. Many stores sell the lollipops, gummy bears, and sour sweets. You can contribute to the fun without causing the harm listed above.
Before going out for Halloween, we still follow the traditions of picking out costumes and getting excited about going out with other ghosts and goblins. However, since we cannot (thankfully) partake in the sweets part, we started a new tradition. About a week before the holiday, I take the kids to the store to pick out a toy. Trade options might include movie tickets or tickets to a production, symphony or orchestra, a special dinner out with Mom and/or Dad, a day out to somewhere your child wants to go – the options are endless and can be far more important and worthwhile to your child. It goes away until Halloween night, and after the children get home we gather all the sweets collected for the last month and do a switch. Other families make it even more fun by employing the ‘Switch Witch’ where a child puts their candy by the bed and the Switch Witch trades it during the night. Either way, the kids finally have that toy they have been eyeing without the harmful effects of sugar, dyes, additives and preservatives.
Treat yourself and your children!
The chemicals in candy, sweets, crisps and other processed foods are real. They are not doing anything beneficial for your child, and in fact leach essential nutrients and minerals from their little vulnerable bodies along with damaging DNA in their cells. There are many legitimate studies that have been done and corroborate the sad effects of chemicals and trans fats. I have always loved the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This is one tradition we can all help to change and in the process give our children fun with out any of the nasty side effects.