by Lisa George
As a parent, at this time of year, I am concerned – and as a holistic nutritionist I am horrified. With Halloween, tomorrow, as parents we all know the drill, especially as our kids get older! They map out the best route to get the most loot and arrive home with their treasures, laughing, sorting, trading and consuming lots of sugar. I know what some of you are thinking — they’re kids and Halloween is only once a year! But, think about it. For many kids, it’s really not just once a year that a lot of sugar is eaten.
Sugar is in everything today and many diets are SAD (the Standard American Diet), consisting primarily of processed and packaged foods that we eat on the run. Sugar is hidden in many foods and in foods that you may not expect. Condiments like ketchup, bbq sauce and salad dressing have added sugar (each one tablespoon of ketchup has one teaspoon of sugar). Pasta sauces, frozen meals, canned fruits and vegetables can also contain added refined sugar. And, watch the low fat versions because they contain even more sugar to replace the taste loss from removing the fat! Sugary breakfast cereals, which are mostly geared towards kids have a lot of added sugar – and check the labels of the ones marketed as “healthy”, as they too can contain high amounts of added sugar.
Sugar can actually be disguised under 50 different names and you can find a great article that lists them at “The Organic Authority”.
For hockey parents, whose kids are drawn to slushies after a game, did you know that certain brands have 28 grams of sugar in one cup (8 oz) and most of them are double that in size? So, that means just the 8 ounce cup has 7 teaspoons of sugar! (If you want to know how to convert grams of sugar to teaspoons, just divide the number of grams of sugar by 4.)
Many kids start their day with orange juice. For an 8 oz. glass of OJ, there is 22 grams, or 5.5 teaspoons of sugar, with no fibre to slow its absorption. I believe we are all aware of the sugar in pop or soda, which is so readily available, even in our schools. One can of coke has 42 grams of sugar — that’s 10.5 tsp! So, in essence, kids do have lots of sugar… all the time, and they have it in excess on Halloween.
I have read lots of studies and reports of the effects of sugar on the body. In fact, high sugar consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, tooth decay, obesity and cancer. And if you haven’t heard this statement yet, studies are now saying that because of our diet and lifestyle today, for the first time in history our kids will live shorter lives than their parents.
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist I struggle with this. My kids eat primarily a whole foods diet with limited sugar compared to their peers. I still have a hard time with the amounts of sugar that gets brought into the house on October 31! Do I let them binge and feel sick, or let them hide their stash so they can make it last through the month – just in time for the sugary treats that come at Christmas? Or, do I buy it off them and figure out what to do with it later? These are frightening Halloween questions (pun intended) and I have talked with other parents who are grappling with these very questions.
If you want to read the statistics about sugar consumption in Canada, visit the Heart and Stroke website. And if you think I am over-reacting, see Vani Hari’s research to learn the contents of today’s candy.
So, please consider yourself warned, or at least a little more knowledgeable about that bag of treats that your kid brings home this weekend. We all need to be spooked about it!
Lisa George, R.H.N., is owner of Creating Healthy Habits, a holistic nutrition consulting business based in Almonte