Fall represents the end of what seems to be an eternity of hot weather, and by October most of us are begging for a cool breeze. However, it also represents a tremendous challenge to healthy lifestyles all around the country. As conscientious parents, we strive to instill a healthy outlook on food with our children. We have to somehow make it through the holiday season maintaining the philosophy of eating to nourish our bodies, and not to satisfy our taste buds. First, there is the issue of school lunches and then the constant barrage of holidays centered around food and excess.
Foods with a high glycemic index are the real enemy, and holidays are full of meals that are accessorized with these items. The problem with high glycemic food is that they are full of sugar, or sugar-like molecules. Once digested, sugar is rapidly absorbed and released into the blood stream. Your pancreas produces an insulin spike in response to the glucose spike. Theoretically, high amounts of circulating sugars should provide ample energy rich molecule, but on the contrary the insulin spike causes the rapid storage of the glucose, leaving you worn out.
Without boring you with details, there are three types of sugar containing carbohydrates. First there are simple carbohydrates, which contain short chains of easily absorbed sugars. These are the bad ones that you want to avoid especially if their greatest contribution to your nutrition is sugar. Second, complex carbohydrates are longer chains of sugar that are somewhat more complicated for your digestive tract to break down, but still provide ample sugar molecules to wear you out. Finally, fibrous carbohydrates are contained in green leafy vegetables, broccoli and the skins of other vegetables and fruits. Fibrous carbohydrates are the ones that you want to concentrate on ingesting. These have minimal effects on blood sugar levels and are full of the material that your body craves to run its metabolic machinery on. In addition, the fiber helps with digestion by mechanically pushing materials and waste through your digestive tract. Holiday meals and celebrations are centered around sugary sweets, deserts, grain rich foods, and excess of anything bad for you. Make sure to eat prior to going to holiday parties. That way you won’t be tempted with unhealthy choices at the buffet.
Halloween poses as a formidable opponent to both parenting and a healthy lifestyle. This is a one of the few family holidays that we can get out of the house and celebrate together, especially if your kids are young. What could be better than the entire family having an early dinner then taking a long walk with the entire neighborhood to greet you? But here’s the problem. Your kids are coming home with 20 pounds of some of the worst things you can eat, and they spend the entire evening eating these treats. That’s right, 20 pounds of simple carbohydrates that have nothing more to add to your diet than sugar and toxic dyes. Not so cute of a holiday anymore, right?
We just couldn’t stand back anymore and watch the gluttony, so at our house we altered Halloween ever so slightly to motivate our kids to give the candy up. So how did this happen without violence and mayhem? We created a new tradition in “The Story of the Great Pumpkin Man,” co-authored by my wife, Sofia and myself. As the story goes, the Great Pumpkin Man comes to our house after Halloween and collects all the candy and leaves a gift at the front door. Unbeknownst to us, soon the entire neighborhood was participating, along with many of the children in my son’s class. It turns out with a little motivation, kids are willing to easily give away the candy for something else they really want.
I believe that the true lesson for us as parents was that it was so much easier than we anticipated to get our kids to comply. There were no tears or arguments from my three year old either. Be creative, but maintain high standards with your diet through the holidays. Consider starting a new healthy tradition at Halloween with The Story of the Great Pumpkin Man. Good luck and great health!
Dr. Kirk Rossiter is a board certified physician with five published works on the connection between the brain and obesity. He and wife Sofia Rossiters’ early research in the field of obesity and the brain has guided their interest and shaped the way they raise their own family. Passionate about fighting childhood obesity, the couple published their new book, “The Story of The Great Pumpkin Man,” to offer families a healthy alternative to the Halloween candy binge. The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Xlibris.com and BarnesandNoble.com.