Although I love the month of October for changing leaves, cooling temperatures, apples, cider, and squash, there is also a sense of dread that comes over me. Along with the ghosts, spiders, and vampires, there is a bit of unease about the upcoming battle between a mom and the candy industry.
As soon as October hits I start thinking about how to give my kids a fun Halloween while keeping the sugar levels reasonable. So far I have gotten away with this by loading up on fun, healthy treats at home, trick-or-treating at three or four houses, and calling it a night. They have no idea that other kids are out there for hours, filling up pillowcases with candy.
But this year my son is seven and he wants to go trick-or-treating with friends. Gulp. I can’t even use the excuse that it is a school night this year because our school district has decided to make the day after Halloween a teacher workday! They know that teaching kids coming off of the sugar high of Halloween is a lost cause. What does this say about our society? It means the candy industry has won.
Halloween wouldn’t be such a thorn in my side if it was just one day a year or even an occasional treat. The problem is that there is a constant onslaught of sugar throughout the school year in the form of classroom celebrations, rewards for academic achievement, athletic events, birthday parties, and other holidays. Not to mention parents bringing in snacks to share that they deem “healthy” in the form of fruit snacks, juice boxes and breakfast bars. These kinds of foods are counterproductive when trying to give our kids the fuel they need to sit and focus in the classroom. These foods are not fair to our kids and not fair to our teachers.
The good news is more and more schools are recognizing the crucial link between healthy eating and learning and they are joining programs like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program to help them make changes. Many schools are adopting policies that limit what kinds of foods can be brought in for snacks. While a few parents might gripe about being told what to feed their children, most understand that this isn’t about one child, or one family. This is about creating calm and productive classrooms so that everyone in the school can be successful.
My son’s school has joined the Healthy Schools Program and has earned a Bronze National Recognition Award for its efforts to become a healthier place for students and staff. One of those efforts was to send a letter home to parents encouraging them to only send in healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, and whole grains. This is a relatively simple step that every school can take and families can work on at home. This is a simple step that makes a large difference in student health, learning, and achievement. And there is nothing scary about that.
This year, I am reminding myself that whatever happens come All Hallows’ Eve, what is most important is what my children eat the other 364 days of the year. And I'm going to find some time to make a few of these cute, healthier Halloween snacks on Pinterest. Good luck to all the moms of ghost and goblins this year!