Lightening the Holiday ‘Footprint’ (Part I)

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Fall is upon us officially now, and so quickly we are thrust into the ‘holiday season.’ This season can easily become synonymous with the experience of indulgence. A day or two of indulgence here or there is no biggie in the grand scheme of things, but two and a half months? Well, that is pushing it! And while I speak here of things like sweets and treats, I also am speaking of indulging in other habits that affect not just our bodies, but our planet. So, let’s break down how we can lighten the burden both on our bodies and the planet in the coming months, starting this month with sweets.

Apple in one hand, pie pumpkins going into wagon! Healthy, seasonal treats! photo credit: M. Breen

If you are a parent to small children, then you are no stranger to the sugar onslaught that hits basically all year long! But it certainly intensifies in the last few months of the year. It can feel almost impossible to keep at bay. You have likely already tried many ways to reign this in, and you know how hard it is. It is no secret that sugar is not the body’s friend. It can increase inflammation, stress the liver, damage teeth and weaken our immune system, among many other detrimental effects. Yet, it is everywhere! So, here are some tips that might help.

Tips For Halloween and Holiday Fun With Less Sugar

  • Choose events carefully. With Halloween approaching there is never a shortage of events to attend to load kids up on sugar. But for a fun Halloween or holiday season, kids don’t need 10 different events to attend. Pick just a few events (perhaps including the actual trick or treating!), and then set some limits. I have found exclusion of sugar entirely to not work, and of course it can even backfire. At an event, suggest a limit on the number of treats. (The avoidance of food coloring and dyes is also hard to control, but that can be done—and perhaps will become another article!). Feed your kids ahead of time, fill them up on protein and have snacks with you. Once they have had one or two items, move on to something else, like a hay ride or pumpkin picking. And have something enticing on hand to offer them to get their minds off sugar!
  • Consider going to the Co-op for their wonderful trick-or-treating event. Each department
    Trick or treating for healthy snacks at HWFC 2016 photo credit: M. Breen

    has a treat (and not all are sugar treats!) for the kids. Then they have a party and crafts in the Community Room. It’s always a fun time. Check the Co-op calendar for details.

  • For Halloween night, if your kids are old enough to want to do the traditional street trick-or treating, go for it. Have fun! Enjoy with them the thrill of the costumes, the darkness, the crunch of the leaves, the scurrying about with baskets and bags. At the end, one option is to have them admire their lot, and then pick just a few things to eat. Then you can do one of two things. Some people like the “Switch Witch” idea for younger kids, where you get a small toy for the child and at night switch out the candy for the toy. Others like letting kids know, “sorry, this is too much sugar (and other unhealthy ingredients) for your body, so pick what you like and the rest goes away. Here are a few yummy HWFC candies (which of course still have sugar!) to help you say goodbye to the junk.”
  • If kids are young enough or open to it, throw a party and then you have some control over what and how much is eaten. A friend of ours who’s child has a nut allergy hosts a lovely trick-or-treat-through-the-woods party with family and friends for allergen-free goodies!
  • School is another whole ball game when it comes to treats, and as a homeschooling mama, perhaps it would be best to hear from someone in the school system trenches on this. But, from my experience as a former school teacher, I know sugar is everywhere there, too. This is when I think it is important that families have set some clear boundaries and have had discussions about sugar’s effects on our bodies; about how we feel when we have sugar and how it changes our mood and how our tummy feels afterward; about better food choices, etc. Also important is offering tasty alternatives to sugar-sweetened treats at home. Then, when faced with an onslaught of sugary treats, they are equipped with both some habits formed at home and reminders that the sugary thrill is very time-limited. My kids have even told me they prefer I set some limits on sugary treats! Their will is still forming, so some gentle reminders are helpful. For very little ones, who are just too tempted, this can be so hard. But persistence is key and really does pay off. Additionally, parents can work with teachers and staff to set limits and create alternatives to sugary foods.
  • Create many other traditions around the holiday season that have nothing to do with sugar. Then make sugar one of many special highlights, not the only one, and certainly not business as usual.

Hopefully these are helpful tips for you and the children in your family that, as we approach what is often a decadent and excessive season, can be remembered as healthy choices that matter all year long, not just October through December! Next month, we look at how our indulgent choices affect the earth.

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I am former teacher and social worker originally from Syracuse, NY. I am currently homeschooling our five kids on a small homestead outside of Albany. I have been a member of HWFC for almost 10 years and feel very committed to supporting member-owned cooperatives. For this reason I choose to do almost all of the shopping for a family of 7 at the Co-op, even if I could occasionally save a buck elsewhere. So very grateful for HWFC and its continual and evolving work to give every member a voice!