MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

October 29, 2012

Halloween’s trick and treat on health

— You know what’s scarier than all the ghouls, witches, zombies and Honey Boo Boo wannabes that will fill Muskogee streets on Halloween?  It’s the super-sized haul of candy and junk our little monsters, princesses and super heroes may eat as a result of all the trick-or-treating and parties.

The immediate, sugar-induced, bouncing-off-the-walls hyperactivity of otherwise well-mannered kids can be more than a little scary.  But more frightening is the long-term effects of how the traditional Halloween-hype can fuel our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.

But, before you start thinking I’m a Halloween killjoy, there’s a healthy side to Halloween, too.  

This is the one night a year when you actually see kids out walking through neighborhoods with friends and families.  Kids, outside, walking, having fun, being active … now THAT is a great treat.  

It’s the activity and the fun, not the sugary snacks, that is the real treat of Halloween that we could try to incorporate more into our everyday lives.

Halloween is spooky, but childhood obesity is downright frightening.

Last week, Muskogee Wellness Initiative teamed up with Muskogee Public Schools and Muskogee County Food and Fitness Initiative to screen an episode of HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” documentary series at Sadler Arts Academy.

The screening and following panel discussion made it clear that our nation and our community face seriously scary consequences of the rapidly expanding obesity epidemic.  

Obesity contributes to five of the leading causes of death in our country andcosts the nation about $190 billion in related health care costs each year.  That’s scary.

Obese children too often become young adults who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular problems, or both.  That’s frightening.

This generation of children is the first expected to live shorter lives than their parents, due largely to poor nutrition and inactivity.  That’s terrifying.  

The film and the local panel of experts encouraged replacing sugary or high-fat foods with nutritious fruits and vegetables, getting more exercise, reducing portion sizes and cutting out sugary drinks.  (View the full list of panelist recommendations at muskogeewellness.org)

Why not start by making healthy alternatives available for kids this Halloween?

Apples, clementines, air-popped popcorn, raisins, yogurt in a tube, sunflower seeds, almonds, granola, and pretzels all beat plastic-tasting sugary snacks and candy bars as health-conscious treats.

Or, consider non-food treats.  Stickers, bubbles, pencils, games, erasers, temporary tattoos and books could trick a kid into not missing the sugary stuff.

Walk the neighborhoods.  Considering hitting up every other house with a glowing porch light.  For Halloween parties, dance to “Monster Mash” or “Thriller” to burn off energy and show off funky or frightening moves.  

When thinking about Halloween drinks, please consider water.  For adults, 46 percent of the added sugar in our diet comes from sugary drinks.  For kids who drink pop, four sodas equates to 25-30 percent of their daily calorie needs, with absolutely no nutritional value or hunger fighting properties.  

A strong recommendation given in “The Weight of the Nation” film and by our own panel of experts:  Cut out pop and other sugary drinks and opt for water instead.  

Finally, just because kids haul home a coffin-load of candy doesn’t mean they have to eat it all.  Let them chose a few of their favorite treats and get rid of the rest

For kids 12 and younger, consider getting “Cash for Candy” at the dentist office of Dr. David Jones, 510 N. York St., in Muskogee.  On Thursday, Nov. 1 from 3 to 6 p.m., kids will receive $1 for each pound of candy they sell back and a goody bag filled with non-candy items, like toothbrushes and coupons for fun activities like bowling and skating.

Now in it’s sixth year, office manager Debra Jones said that the “Cash for Candy” program nets an average of seven pounds of candy per child to donate to Blue Star Mothers, which then sends it to troops stationed overseas.   

Let’s maximize the healthy, fun and active side of Halloween, while minimizing the sugar-coated side that can do a real scary trick on our kids’ health.

Lisa Wade Raasch coordinates the City of Muskogee Wellness Initiative and directs the EOK Health Care Coalition.  Connect online at www.face-

book.com/MuskogeeWellness.

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