Skeletons. Witches. The zombie apocalypse. And sugar. They’re all a part of Halloween, and they’re all equally scary.
“Halloween is scary because it is so food-focused,” Becky Basalone says in an article on AllergicLiving.com. And she’s right—costumes might be the center of Halloween, but the point of donning a creepy mask is usually to get bucket loads of candy.
For Basalone, this is frightening because her son lives with multiple, life-threatening food allergies that show up in a large portion of Halloween candy. So she started what became the Teal Pumpkin Project, which encourages people to offer non-food items as tricks instead of only candy as treats (houses that do so mark themselves by painting a Jack-o-lantern teal.)
My family is lucky that we don’t have to worry about Logan dying from his Halloween candy. But we are trying to stick to a strict GAPS Intro diet, and any dusting of sugar (along with milk, grains and a host of other items) is off-limits. Lots of families try GAPS for different reasons – Celiac’s Disease, candida, eczema, depression. We’re following it in an attempt to alleviate Logan’s autism symptoms, mainly aggression and emotional regulation. (The stories and theories behind GAPS, if you don’t know what it is, are far beyond the scope of this post – read about them here.)
But even though we’re not dealing with a life-threatening situation, we do want to avoid infractions to the diet at all costs. First, an infraction causes an emergence of more aggression and less focus, and second, if, at the end of our GAPS marathon, Logan’s leaky gut isn’t healed, I don’t want to wonder if it didn’t work because we cheated too much. And I definitely do not want to start over and try it again from the beginning. While the diet is still a struggle, on Stage 3 at least we’ve gotten to a point where it’s manageable and Logan accepts it. I can only imagine the meltdown we’d see if we told him we were again taking away the few dietary pleasures he has, like mineral water with a few drops of stevia and eggs scrambled in ghee.
The trouble isn’t always the diet. It’s the way our culture is so food-obsessed, and trying to fit the diet into American culture is at times like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. When we have holidays that are completely focused on food—and worse, sugar—children with dietary limitations feel left out and can suffer blows to their confidence and self-esteem, says Basalone. I think she’s right. I’m always worried Logan is feeling left out because he can’t participate in so many food-based activities at daycare and preschool. I do my best to send a substitute, but even 4-year-olds notice when someone in the crowd is different.
There was cooking gingerbread cookies last holiday season that Logan got to help cook but not eat (I sent SnapPea Crips instead.) There was the ice cream and pretzels at the End of Summer Bash at daycare (I sent organic, plain popcorn.) Then there was the field trip to the apple orchard, where all the kids got to pick their owns apples (Jason and I determined ahead of time we would allow an infraction this time and just deal with any setbacks—because yes, even the sugar in fruit is not allowed in the early stages of GAPS.)
For Halloween alone, Americans spend $2 billion on candy, according to The Atlantic. Perhaps the most frightful fact I found, from the California Milk Processors Board, is that the average trick-or-treater’s bucket will hold 250 pieces of candy. That equals about 3 pounds of sugar.
3 pounds of sugar in one night. Sometimes you just want to say, WTF, America.
It wasn’t always this way. Trick-or-treating began in the 1930s and 1940s, when kids would dress in costumes and receive a variety of treats, from coins to toys to fruit, says folklorist Jack Santino. After World War II, when sugar rations were lifted and the economy began to prosper, the sugar industry waged its own war to make sure candy became the only acceptable treat on Oct. 31st.
Urban legends (all untrue!) that bad people poison Halloween treats so parents should only let their kids eat unopened, store-bought candy fueled the trend to hand out fun-sized junk instead of homemade (and healthier) treats. By the 1970s, the candy trend had become an unquestioned tradition.
And that scares me—our culture’s fear of tainted food has ironically lead us to eating worse. Kudos to Basalone for starting the Teal Pumpkin Project and giving us all a reason to get back to more tricks, less treats for Halloween!