Boo! Since Halloween is this weekend, it’s a good time to think about what can make this holiday so scary. It’s not the ghosts or zombies that come to your door in the evening that you should be scared of, though. In fact, you don’t even need to wait until dark to get spooked. You are likely to see the scariest “costumes” on your breakfast table on Halloween morning – candy and soda dressed up as healthy food! Here are three common examples:
Fro-yo dressed as healthy yogurt
Most people would consider yogurt to be a healthy breakfast. And it is, provided you aren’t getting tricked. Low-fat and fat-free flavored yogurt is almost always sweetened with sugar. This is true for the yogurt tubes that kids love and much of the Greek yogurt that is so popular. Sure, it contains protein and potentially beneficial bacteria, but the added sugar makes it equivalent to frozen yogurt or ice cream in terms of calories and sugar. Some of these yogurts even come with toppings, like bits of chocolate, just like fro-yo.
Soda dressed as fruit juice
Many “fruit” drinks contain less than 5% juice but plenty of added sugar, so they are essentially soda without bubbles. For example, the orange drinks like Hi-C or Sunny D are a popular substitute for orange juice, but they are far from a nutritional equivalent. The same is true for other drinks, including juice boxes and pouches, which are commonly part of breakfast, lunch or snacks. Even scarier is the fact that these drinks are much sweeter than real fruit. Children may develop an expectation that oranges or orange juice should taste as sweet as soda and prefer the sugar-sweetened version over the real fruit.
Candy bars and cookies dressed as cereal and breakfast bars
Many popular breakfast foods targeted at children include sugar-sweetened cereals, pastries and bars. Some breakfast bars and cereals that seem healthy are really candy bars in disguise. Some even skip the disguise and actually look like candy or dessert. Pop Tarts and some granola bars are covered in chocolate or frosting, and favorite cereals often contain marshmallows or are shaped like cookies. No surprise that these foods are as high in calories and sugar as cookies or some candy bars. Worse, a child who is used to breakfast or snack foods that taste like candy or cookies may resist real food when it is offered. Now that’s scary.
While the focus here is on food for kids, it really isn’t much different for adults. Breakfast foods like donuts and pastries are almost always topped with icing and it would be difficult to distinguish many muffins from cupcakes. For many people, coffee isn’t just coffee anymore, but a drink that contains as much sugar and as many calories as a milkshake, sometimes with whipped cream on top. What’s really scary is that this is how many people eat every day.
Worried about the big bags of candy that get brought home on Halloween night? While eating a lot of candy is never healthy, a typical Halloween candy binge lasts a few days, after which time the candy is gone or the kids are literally sick of eating it. The long term effects on your kid’s health (and teeth) can be offset by a good diet, regular activity and diligent brushing and flossing. The same applies to you, too, if you find yourself digging into the big bowl of candy that is inevitably left over.