Autumn smells are in the air, stores are stocked with candy corn and bags of candy, my daughter, for one, is talking about how many houses she’ll hit for trick or treat time: parents, it is time to prepare! For many of our children, it is not only gluten and casein that needs to be avoided; refined sugar can trigger hyperactivity and feed the yeast overgrowth that many of us working so hard to keep at bay.
There are strategies to help our children who are on a sugar-restricted eating plan get through the month of October. Since my son George, nine, was three years old, we began to monitor the effects of different foods and identified that sugar can easily cause disregulation in his behavior and distress in his body. I have been monitoring the effects of excess sugar on both of my children since that time.
When we first did some testing with a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor to determine George’s sensitivities, we discovered that he had an overgrowth of yeast and started the Body Ecology diet to bring his digestive system back into balance.
During the (super challenging) year that we were on Body Ecology, I cut out sugar for George entirely. Halloween that year did not involve trick or treat in the neighborhood but we celebrated at home with some candies that I made with stevia (which you can find on my blog by clicking here).
Gradually, we started adding foods back into George’s diet, including small amounts of sugar. When I bake at home, I use raw, organic honey rather than white sugar and use stevia for drinks like lemonade and iced tea. All of the recipes in my visual children’s cookbook Kitchen Classroom use honey or stevia when a sweetener is called for. But we do allow George to eat limited amounts of sugar now for occasions like a birthday party or Halloween and though he can get slightly disregulated and definitely more hyper when he does take in small amounts of sugar, we’ve developed a few strategies that you may find helpful for your child as you plan for trick or treat time:
Anticipate: How does your child react to sugar? If you haven’t been paying close attention, make some notes about what you see behavior and digestion wise over the next week.
Prepare: If you want to limit your child’s sugar intake around the day of Trick or Treat, be sure to plan what you eat over the week leading up to Halloween accordingly. Serve plenty of protein and vegetables. (If your kid is not a veggie eater, check out Kitchen Classroom for some fun recipes!) Vegetables help to keep the body’s ph level in an alkaline, rather than acidic, state—and yeast grows in the acidic state.
Set Limits: My son would happily come in from trick or treating and eat through his bag of candy. I’ll let the kids pick out a few pieces that night to enjoy (sorry teachers!) and for the next week, I’ll let him pick out a small piece to eat after school. Then we’re done. Whatever’s left in the bag gets pitched (so mommy isn’t tempted to snack!). For all kids, understanding that treats fit in as a small part of a healthy way to eat is an important learning and post-Halloween is a good time to begin those conversations. It’s also a good time to start cooking healthy treats together.
Balance: Take the extra sugar into account and over the week following Halloween, make food choices to balance the sugar. For example, I will buy granny smith apples which are lower in sugar than red apples. Hummus and rice crackers are a favorite snack for my kids and a little squeeze of lemon in the hummus helps to interest their taste buds in something other than sweet!
Have fun with your sweeties! Check out the Recipe of the week for a fun GF Halloween treat to make with your kids.
About the Author
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is the author of “The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Viusal GF/CF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills.” She blogs about food and family at www.kitchenclassroom4kids.com