Halloween — Ban the Booty?

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An interview with Robin Miller 

That sugar loaded holiday is lurking, and many parents are spooked about how to handle those pillowcases crammed full of, let’s admit it, delicious treats. Let our little ghosts gorge? Secretly toss the candy and replace it with a present telling our children the “switch-witch” stole it? Maybe get rid of the loot altogether?

To share her well-earned insight into this dilemma is Robin Miller, mother, best-selling cookbook author, nutritionist, and host of The Food Network television show Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller. – Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC

Why is refined sugar unhealthy for kids (and adults!) — but kids especially?

Refined sugar is unhealthy because it contains ZERO nutrient value. That means: NO vitamins, NO minerals and NO fiber. Just empty calories. Without fiber or protein to slow down digestion, the sugar quickly enters the bloodstream and then almost as quickly gets absorbed. That’s why you hear of the sugar “rush” and subsequent sugar “crash”. This is especially important for kids because many kids are picky eaters or small eaters so every morsel of food counts. You don’t want a sweet food to replace a healthy one. Plus, any sugar that gets “left behind” in the mouth is terrible for their teeth!!

Is moderation of sugar intake best? Or better to dramatically limit it’s intake for our children? Should sugar be banned all together?

I believe that moderate sugar intake is best. I don’t believe in banning ANY foods. Let’s face it, kids will be exposed to sugary foods anyway and are likely to over-indulge if they haven’t had a chance to enjoy sweets once in a while. The key is to balance sugary treats with a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, dairy products and eggs.

How should parents deal with Halloween?

Parents should handle Halloween just as they would any other occasion where sweets are widely available and in abundance (birthday parties, holiday parties, special events, etc.). I like to serve my kids a healthy dinner before they go out so they’re not famished (the meal also fuels their legs for walking!). A typical pre-trick-or-treat meal would be a green salad, whole grain pasta with sauce, steamed broccoli and turkey meatballs or grilled chicken breasts. While we’re out, I let them sample a few little things after I check the wrappers. Once home, I put the candy into freezer bags and we enjoy a little treat or two every day, after a healthy meal.

I believe it’s important to teach children WHY sugary treats should be limited, as well as how they can enjoy other great foods that offer flavor AND nutrients. I also like to explain that some sweets (like dark chocolate) are actually good for your heart. Children can quickly learn that there is a place in every healthy diet for sweet treats!

Robin Miller has fifteen years of experience as a food writer and nutritionist and is the author of the bestselling cookbook Quick Fix Meals. She is the host of The Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals with Robin MillerRobin’s recipes and nutrition features can be seen regularly in Cooking LightHealthShapeMen’s Fitness, and Toddler magazines. She also provides recipes to the American Heart Association, The American Institute for Cancer Research, and Weight Watchers. Robin has been a guest on hundreds of local and national television and radio programs — including Oprah Radio.

This post was original published in October 2010

Posted in: Expert Advice, Health & Wellness, Holidays, Learn