Saturday, May 18, 2013
By Avery Yale Kamila email@example.com
Even though Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I find myself in a quandary each year at this time. The problem: What to hand out to the little princesses and superheroes who knock on my door.
Registered nurse and nutrition counselor Susan Fekety gave her assessment of whether or not these treats are considered healthy.
Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer
YOUR BRAIN ON ARTIFICIAL COLORS
IN 2007, The Lancet medical journal reported on a double blind study conducted by researchers at Southhampton University in England. The researchers studied what happened when half of a randomized group of children were fed a mixture of sodium benzoate (a food preservative) and artificial food colors, and the other half received a placebo. The results were clear: the children who consumed the chemicals showed significant increases in hyperactivity and corresponding decreases in attention span. Because the study was so large (almost 300 children were included) and so rigorously conducted, the results proved shocking to many mainstream medical experts who had previously doubted the connection between diet and behavior.
Over the years, I've been all over the map with my approach to Halloween treats.
Some years, I've ignored my health food ways and given out candy laden not only with white sugar but also artificial colors and additives. Other years, I've opted for little bags of pretzels that do well in the sugar department but still disappoint when it comes to white flour content. And last year, I took the easy way out and made myself scarce during the prime trick-or-treating hours.
But I missed seeing all the costume cuteness.
This year, I am determined to return to the trick-or-treat circuit with hopes of dishing out better-for-you junk food.
Of course, there is a witch's brew of obstacles to avoid in pursuit of wholesome treats. The first is that parents tend to be suspicious of anything not factory packaged. That means any natural treats, such as apples, that parents spot in their little monster's bucket will get tossed. This also eliminates the option of handing out home-baked goods.
Then, of course, there's the whole issue of tricks delivered to those whose treats aren't up to snuff. (I'm told handing out pencils is one of the quickest ways to get your house egged.)
In pursuit of more healthful snacks, I made a recent trip to the grocery and health food stores in the area to see what I could find. As I scoured the aisles looking for semi-healthy treats, I had four criteria: each had to be relatively low in sugar, contain few (if any) highly processed or artificial ingredients, be free of genetically-modified items and be composed of mostly organically-grown ingredients.
After much searching, I purchased seven items: Environkidz Organic Crispy Rice Bars Peanut Choco Drizzle Gluten Free; Clif Kid Organic ZBar Honey Graham; Glutino Gluten Free Organic Bars Chocolate & Peanuts; Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin-N-Spice Granola Bars; Cascadian Farm Organic Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Kid-sized Bars; Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks Berry Patch; and Nature's Place Organic California Raisins,
Not trusting my judgment in this department, I turned to registered nurse and nutrition and lifestyle counselor Susan Fekety, who practices at True North Health Center in Falmouth.
Turns out that Fekety has experienced the same Halloween-induced dilemmas.
"The things you want to give, like fresh fruit, you can't," Fekety said. "I have given pretzels. I like to stay away from white flour, but they're better than Snickers. I've done raisins, but they're not popular. Better is to hit the Dollar Store and give away party favors, toys and other non-food items. If you're feeling abundant, you could give out nickels and dimes. It's an ethical issue on my end. I don't want to feed kids this stuff."
She and I then discussed the treats I'd purchased. In general, she felt the selections were an improvement over mass-marketed candies filled with sugar (often 20 grams or more), partially hydrogenated soybean oil (known as trans fat) and artificial colors.
Fekety said a good gauge of whether or not a snack is more healthful than the competition is to make sure the first ingredient is not a sugar or a syrup. The one item I'd purchased that failed miserably in this category was the Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Snacks. No question these are a step up from gummy bears, but the first four ingredients are sugar.
Fekety also pointed out that the Cascadian Farm Organic Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Kid-Sized Bars contained the most processed ingredients of the bunch, calling particular attention to the partially defatted peanut flour as one example of the bars' use of food far from its natural state.
In the end, she concluded that the EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Bars were the most nutritious choice, with only two grams of fat and four grams of sugar per serving. The bars are packaged 18 to a bag, and I found them in the Halloween section at Whole Foods Market.
"I'm on my way to the store to get some of those right now," Fekety said.
Let's hope the kids like them as much as Fekety and I do.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org