Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween and beyond.......

And So the Season of Sugar Begins…………..
In just a few days, children will be ringing my doorbell, yelling out the traditional, “TRICK OR TREAT”, in anticipation of receiving candy. In my neighborhood, it isn’t just one small piece. Oh no. Many of my neighbors hold out a bowl and let the kids take handfuls of candy. One family gives out those king- sized candy bars you buy at the movies. The kids don’t stop until their plastic pumpkin receptacles are full to the top. I know this from experience. I have a son and a daughter, who are really too old to trick or treat, but not too old to celebrate this Halloween in some way. I remember all too well looking at the pile of candy on our kitchen counter at the end of a night of their trick-or-treating. They would sort through the “good candy” (chocolate, Skittles or red Starbursts) and the others they didn’t like so well ( like those little bags of pretzels that they would complain weren’t really treats at all). 
They would have one or two pieces a day, and this would start the season of increased sugar consumption, because after the Halloween candy was gone, then the little chocolate turkeys would show up, then the Christmas candy canes, chocolates, and cookies and before you know it there were Valentine’s chocolates and the finale of this 6 month sugar overload was Easter, with the Easter basket featuring The Chocolate Bunny!

I thought of all this as I stood in the aisle of a store today, trying to decide what kind of treat I would give out to the trick-or-treaters this year.  This is always a personal struggle for me.  Really.  How can I hand out CANDY, when I see the destruction it can cause every day? I once told someone I couldn’t give out candy on Halloween because it was against my religion, which caused great confusion since they saw me at mass on Sunday. One year I gave out packets of microwave popcorn. One year I gave out the infamous little bags of pretzels (that was before I saw how my own children snubbed these treats).  Some years I couldn’t find anything but candy to give out, so if one of my patients came to my door, I had to answer their “Trick or Treat!” with “Be sure to brush your teeth after the candy!” I am surprised my house didn’t get egged that year.

When I was a kid, people used to give out apples. Real apples, no wrapper. Then some crazy person put a foreign object in the apple , like a needle or a razor or something, and it was all over the news. So then no parent would let their child accept an unwrapped treat.

So back to the aisle in the store, I stood there reading every label, seeing which treat would be the best of the worst choices available. I already had these monster game cards from the ADA which I had been giving out in the office, but somehow I thought they would be received with as much excitement as the pretzels now that I stood amongst the aisle of sugar.  I finally decided on the Halloween packages of Goldfish ( a step up from the pretzels),and mini granola bars.  The granola bar box said in large letters that there was NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP . This made me feel a little better about making the purchase.

So how does one negotiate their way through this season of sugar?  I have a few suggestions, short of just saying no to any sugar. You have to be one very strong person to turn down all sugar.

1.       Don’t keep eating it throughout the day, keeping a constant level of sugar in your mouth. Decide what pieces you want, eat them at a certain time, and then brush your teeth afterwards.

2.      Don’t keep it accessible – put it away! No candy dish sitting around. Put the stash in a ziplock bag somewhere, and if you don’t trust yourself or those sweet addicts in your house, put the ziplock bag in a closed container. The harder it is to get to, the more you will think about eating it.

3.       As tempting as those after the holiday specials are (I have seen Halloween candy at 90% off on November 1) don’t buy anymore candy to keep in your house. Obviously, if it is not there, you can’t eat it.

4.      Get your teeth cleaned by your dentist or dental hygienist just before this Sugar Season begins, and then again just after it ends in the Spring. This would be about 6 months apart.  This way you can also have your teeth checked and take care of any cavities right away, and not help them get larger from any extra sugar you do take in.

So here’s to a Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Easter! Try to limit your treats, and remember there are other ways to celebrate the holidays than eating your sugary way through them.