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Tricks for a healthy Halloween

Don't let unhealthy eating run amok on Halloween, advises Jill Chiacchia, founder and director of the the beHealthy Institute in Hamburg. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

By Catherine Henry – Refresh Contributing Writer

Jill Chiacchia doesn’t want to be “that person”– the one who agonizes over the huge quantities of unhealthy candy during Halloween.

But when it comes to the treats being distributed to children, the owner of the beHealthy Institute in Hamburg has no problem exposing their toxicity: High-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives load these confections.

And although it’s hard to imagine, these little bonbons handed out once a year contribute to the obesity epidemic in kids, potentially leading to a life of insulin shots, cholesterol medicine and beta blockers.

Talk about scary.

“Research links artificial colors with behavioral issues in children,” says Chiacchia. “Overconsumption of sugar leads to a long list of health concerns from tooth decay to diabetes, from obesity to weakened immune systems. I feel like if I give out Halloween candy, I’m not only supporting an industry that is counter to my mission in life but I’m contributing to a health epidemic in our country.”

Chiacchia asks parents to be proactive this Halloween. Instead of candy, she will give out glow sticks, pencils, notebooks, playing cards, stickers or mini crafts.

“If candy is a must, then go for the smaller sized treats and read the ingredients,” Chiacchia says. “Chocolate miniatures or dark chocolate bit size bars only contain around 4 grams of sugar each and have fewer scary ingredients. Natural fruit leathers, trail mixes and popcorn are also nice options.”

Most importantly, Chiacchia follows a few simple rules to keep her family healthy during Halloween:

1. Eat first: Have a complete and healthy meal before the family heads out on Halloween night – parents, too. Try to include a good source of protein, ample vegetables and a healthy fat source to help round out a satisfying meal.

2. H2OOOOOO: Ensure the children are well hydrated. Dehydration leads to cravings for sugar. To be fully hydrated, drink water throughout the day rather than chugging water just before heading out.

3. Sweet dreams: Try to make sure the kids have good night sleep the day leading up to Halloween. Sleep deprivation also leads to cravings for sugar and caffeine.

4. Plan ahead: Offer a homemade favorite alternative for the end of the evening. A baked pie, hot chocolate with “real milk” and chocolate syrup or homemade chai tea are much healthier than processed sugar.

5. Lay down the law: Be the candy police. Place a limit on how much candy the kids can indulge in on Halloween night and the days following. Throw out the rest. It’s so important to remove the temptation from your house.  As hard as it may be, don’t skip this tip! 

Best wishes for a healthy and safe Halloween night.

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

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