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Help Kids Develop Healthier Eating Habits on Halloween and Beyond

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October is in full swing and that means that Halloween is right around the corner! Before diving into the heaps of candy and goodies from this holiday, have you considered how these sugary treats impact our kids’ brains and mental health?

Sugar is a major contributor to long-term psychological health problems. In recent research, it was found that sugar consumption increases the risk of depressive symptoms due to inflammation on the body and brain. All it takes is intaking more than the daily recommendation of sugar, which is less than four to six teaspoons for a child, to increase their risk

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years of age not consume any added sugar at all. However, the average American (children included) consumes 17 teaspoons or more per day, which is already more than three times what is recommended.

While we all may be tempted to continue snacking on the abundance of candy and goodies from Halloween, it may be best to toss them out post-holiday fun. After all, it is so important to limit our kids’ sugar consumption and to work on developing healthy sugar habits for the sake of their physical, mental, and cognitive health (especially on these sugar-filled holidays). 

Here are my top five tips for parents to help naturally reduce their children’s sugar cravings and consumption:

TIP #1: Eat more protein and whole foods  

When in doubt, reach for protein or a whole food option. Protein helps stabilize blood sugar and helps fuel those brain neurotransmitters. Whole foods provide essential nutrients to help fuel your child’s brain all day. 

TIP #2: Don’t use sweets as a reward

Sugary foods already impact your dopamine (reward) pathway. If you allow eating sweets as a reward (For example, if you eat this, you can have a treat, or if you behave you can have a treat) you are setting your child up to use sweets to manage emotions. 

TIP #3: Look at labels

Looking at labels doesn’t have to be difficult. However, marketing can be sneaky. So, get acquainted with other terms that indicate sugar, such as cane sugar, honey, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline sucrose, nectars (such as blossom), maple and agave syrups, dextrose, maltose, and molasses.

TIP #4: Avoid soft drinks, juice, and juice-like drinks

Most soft drinks contain about 30 grams of sugar in a serving. Juice contains about 23 grams of sugar per serving, while juice drinks (aka not actually fruit juice) contains about 20 or more grams of sugar per serving. Instead, opt for water and a piece of fruit. If you choose juice, only choose 100 percent fruit juice. 

TIP #5: Limit processed foods

Steer clear of candy, cereal bars, cookies, cakes, and food marketed specifically to kids. Typically, these food items contain large amounts of sugar and chemicals. Also, because they are easily portable, they tend to be a breakfast or snack substitute. Instead opt for berries, cheeses, and nuts.  

About The Author
Dr. Teralyn Sell

Dr. Teralyn Sell is a psychotherapist and brain health expert who helps career-driven women who are overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks get off and stay off medication and put an end to the symptoms with a natural approach. She works to help balance their brain chemistry and permanently change their behavior so that they can rediscover their motivation, build their confidence and get their life back on track. She’s also the co-founder of ProRecoveryRx, a supplement line helping people improve mood naturally, and even overcome addiction.