a witch can switch

Tonight, the streets will be filled with little lady bugs, witches, ghosts, and goblins. Buzz and Woody are sure to make an appearance; along with Strawberry Shortcake and one of those weird looking things from Yo Gabba Gabba. A mad rush of trick or treaters take center stage on your front porch, including your own My Little Pony or Lightning McQueen. Making their way through the neighborhood, gathering oodles and oodles of treats. Only to return home at night’s end with overflowing bags of Snickers, Skittles, Starbursts, and more.

Now, what to do with all that candy? I just recently came across the story of the Switch Witch.

The Switch Witch promotes a healthier Halloween by trading in the bag of treats for a special gift. I really liked the idea and decided to make up a little poem about the Switch Witch to read to my kiddos:

Do you know the witch of Halloween night?

The Switch Witch is coming; she’s coming all right.

She flies by the moon and down with a swoop,

She’s in with a blast and out with a whoop.

It’s candy she wants, and candy she’ll get.

Stuffing it into her black little net.

She wants your treats for her sugary face,

Leaving a special toy in its place.

So pick out 5 pieces you want for yourself,

Eat 1 right now and stash 4 on a shelf.

Bundle the rest in a trick or treat bag,

Tie it all up with a zig and a zag.

Leave the bag on the table and jump into bed.

The Switch Witch is coming, just like I said.

have. a. happy. healthy. halloween.

BOO! Wake UP!

Ahh Halloween is upon us again. What a nostalgic time for parents. Pumpkins, hayrides, and apple picking. Memories of dressing up in costume, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and oodles and oodles of goodies and treats. Halloween parties galore! At school, at home, and at the neighbors! Wonderful memories and experiences that we eagerly and excitedly want to pass on to our children. I mean, why wouldn’t we? Our kids should be able to go door-to-door and stuff their faces with candy and chocolate and cookies just like we did when we were young. Halloween is a tradition, people. One day out of the year spent supporting and encouraging poor dietary habits amongst our children can’t harm them, right?

The problem is that for most children in the US it’s not just one day, it’s every day. Every day our children are bombarded with ads for crap food and sugary drinks. Fundraisers at school for cookie dough, frozen pizzas, potato chips, and chocolate candy. Sponge Bob and Dora spewed all over every fruit gummy treat in the store. Colored food products targeted to children around every corner. From popsicles and colored goldfish crackers to Fruit Loops cereal, yogurt, and M&M’s. The brighter the better, right? For marketing, yes. For our kids’ health, not so much.

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity and ADHD in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them – or at least require a warning label. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) says the dyes are a “Rainbow of Risks” for children and can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer. I must point out that 1 in 17 children have allergies in the US, 1 in 10 have ADHD, and 1 in 5 are obese. Despite those concerns, manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year, according to the group. Per capita consumption of dyes has risen five-fold since 1955, thanks in part to the proliferation of brightly colored cereals, fruit drinks, and candies pitched to children.

Paralleling these findings, between 2001 and 2007, the number of 2-to-5-year-olds on anti-psychotic medications for behavioral problems doubled. A 2007 study found about 1 in 70 preschoolers was taking a psychotropic drug such as a stimulant, an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, or an anti-anxiety drug. According to the  National Institutes of Health (NIH): About 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 has some sort of mental disorder, be it anxiety, mood, or disruptive behavior disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Honestly, I think our children deserve better. Countries in the European Union (EU) have banned most dyes and require labeling of foods containing particular synthetic dyes linked to behavioral problems in children. The Mars Company has removed all artificial dyes from Starburst Chews and Skittles, and has begun removing all dyes from M&M’s in the UK, but not in the US. Requests for a UK ban followed more than three decades of growing science associating exposure to food additives with a heap of potentially serious problems in children including not only hyperactivity, but also cognitive disturbances and compulsive aggression; asthma, hives, and allergies; and irritability and poor sleeping habits. Many usable alternatives clearly exist, but the US hasn’t decided to take action just yet. I wonder how many more chronically ill children it will take before the FDA steps up in this country?

Not just on Halloween this year, but every day ask yourself how you can contribute to creating a healthier environment for our children. Start with avoiding synthetic dyes by reading labels and choosing organic products. Organic standards prohibit the use of these dyes in products bearing the USDA Organic label and use natural food colorings from beets, carrots, seaweed, spinach, grapes, turmeric, and blueberries. Oh and…

BOO! WAKE UP! The kids are counting on you!

to. happy. healthy. days. ahead.