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What’s really scaring the parents at Halloween?

Halloween can be scary for parents and I don’t mean the plethora of ghosts, little witches and goblins that roam our streets. Our society comes with a helping of fear-mongering around sugar. Which is particularly unnerving for parents at times when sugary foods are part of the norm at a celebration be it Halloween, Christmas or a birthday party.

We’re told that sugar is “toxic”, “addictive” and linked to an array of health issues. We get bombarded with rules and restriction messages that instil fear on a daily basis. When we desperately want to do the best by our children, yet the scariest thing at Halloween has become the idea of our child full of sugar!

Raising healthy kids who have a positive relationship with food and their bodies becomes difficult when certain foods are marketed directly at our children. We also know those foods taste pretty good and are literally going to be handed to our child by the bucketful. If these foods are also seen as harmful, bad and toxic, where are we supposed to stand on this issue?

In an ideal world, we want to empower our child with an ability to make choices that help them feel both happy and healthy right into adulthood. Part of this will be developing the ability to regulate their own eating and deciding what is right for their own body. This is something that takes years of practice, trial and error. We know the most effective way for children to learn is through direct experience. So how do we create a safe environment for them to learn while protecting their healthy relationship with food and body?

Let’s start with getting the facts straight on sugar:

  • Sugar in itself is not toxic. Too much of anything, can, of course, be toxic. However, the current research on sugar toxicity comes from animal studies which are not directly applicable to humans. Additionally, they used significantly larger quantities of sugar than most people would eat in a week let alone one sitting.

  • The only research that indicates sugar may be addictive, applies to those people who have previously restricted it.

  • There is not currently any good quality evidence showing that sugar leads to hyperactivity or behaviour changes in children.

So while ‘sugar is poison’ makes for a juicy headline, it is not particularly helpful. Firstly because it isn’t strictly accurate, secondly because sugar is so accessible, we need more than a soundbite to help our child learn what works best for their body. Aside from Halloween and birthday parties, there are always going to be times where sweet foods will be on offer. Unless you plan on isolating your family completely, this makes it hard to avoid. Additionally, that would mean giving up all the rich celebrations and togetherness that often accompanies these foods.