Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Surviving Halloween on a Special Needs Diet

It's an exciting time of year. Change of seasons, finally settling into school routines and the promise of fun-filled holidays ahead. With Halloween right around the corner, it is the first of many food-oriented holidays and party-filled evenings to come.

Are you prepared to handle the masses of treats and sweets freely flowing over the coming days?

Here are 5 ways to avoid sugar highs and mood swings with plenty of tips to follow through:

1. Arm yourself some with information as a back-up for when you are wavering in resolve and about to give in to your child's (and your!) desire for the bottomless bag of treats.

Just 2 tablespoons of sugar is enough to reduce your immune system's function for 4 hours! Cold and flu season is here and this is not the time to feast on pure sugar. What we DO need is a load of vitamins and minerals, which are basically non-existent in a sugar-loaded diet.

Blood-sugar issues can mimic ADHD type symptoms: irritability, inability to concentrate and focus, anxiety, etc... We certainly don't need to add to our children's issues here!

Simple sugars interfere with absorption of important minerals like calcium and magnesium, as well as B vitamins. It's well known that ADHD / Autism Spectrum children are most likely deficient in these important vitamins and minerals. Not only will too much sugar reduce their intake of these, it will also interfere with the absorption of what little they do consume.
2. Provide plenty of acceptable treats that won't break the list of the biggest risks: no artificial ingredients like colorings, flavorings and preservatives, gluten and casein (meaning most grains and dairy), refined sugar... you are probably laughing right now asking what's left for Halloween treats!

Homemade treats can be simple and just as yummy if you familiarize yourself with the new ingredients and preparation methods.

Look for healthier (though not actually healthy!) options for candies at your local health food store or online. These still contain sugar, so they aren't optional. But, being realistic with transitional needs, they are a starting point for making better choices.
3. Pre-plan on alternatives for what to do with the motherload of candy that is absolutely irresistible sitting around waiting for you to change your mind!

Agree on a pre-determined exchange for the entire bag. A toy or special outing in place of everything. Make it something special that is worth giving all that up, but not so much that you break the bank for a bag of junk candy! For older children, a simple money exchange is enough.

If you have several parties to attend as well as actual trick-or-treating, I would agree on an exchange for everything together. Otherwise, you will be haggling over tiny bits and pieces coming in from all sorts of places as well as the multiple party collections.
4. Continually discuss the why's of eating healthier and the benefits they will receive for it.

Of course, do it in context when appropriate and don't turn it into nagging. When the situation arises, like the sudden appearance of candy at Halloween, talk about what those 'foods' do to our bodies and why it's better not to eat them. Keep the focus on positive benefits of our good choices.
5. Actually get rid of it!

Don't let it sit around waiting to tempt you when you least expect it.

It is probably best not to do it in front of your child. You don't want any last minute panic attacks when it comes down to it. Make sure it's not just sitting on top in the trash can, either! Bury it under something else!
As with every holiday and special occasion, try to focus on the fun of the season or event and not on the food you're missing. Whether the party is at home or away, you should make the activities and costumes your focus. Have fun with it and Happy Halloween!

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