How to Make Halloween Less Scary

Halloween has become all about candy. Here's how your family can enjoy it the healthy way.

It’s Halloween, and that means pumpkin time. Unfortunately, it also means candy time.

Originally, most Halloween traditions were associated with harvest festivals, and superstitions about evil spirits. The tradition of trick-or-treat has several origins, but most of them involved people going door-to-door to ask for home-made foods like cakes, cheese, eggs, butter, apples and also money. Another food associated with Halloween is a kind of fruitcake called a barnbrack.

Somewhere along the way, companies that make candy have hijacked our holiday and replaced our traditions with their products. And now, the distribution of horribly toxic junk food in massive quantities is what Halloween is all about. The distribution of home-made foods has become unthinkable.

The original Jack-o-Lanterns were made out of turnips in Europe. The use of pumpkins began in America, and has now become the most identifiable symbol of the Halloween tradition. Pumpkins are actually a very healthy and nutritious squash that can be used in a wide variety of foods. Yet our current Halloween tradition doesn't actually involve eating pumpkins at all. Halloween has us finding pumpkins at the local pumpkin patch, carving them at home and throwing away all the insides. And when Halloween is over, we throw away the pumpkin. (Later in the year, we eat Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, but most Americans make these from canned pumpkins.)

Brightly colored Halloween candy is handed out everywhere: at the malls, at the banks, at schools -- even the doctor’s office, ironically.

As we take our children door to door and they chant ‘trick or treat,” it’s not the tricks that are scary. It’s what these colorful sugary sweets do to the health of our children that's terrifying. And I’m not talking about just the sugar.

Most of us know that sugar is bad for you. And what better time of the year to review the topic of sugar. I strongly encourage you to read my articles “Goblin Sweets” and “How Sweet It Is.” They're both packed with relevant and helpful information. But beyond the hazards of sugar, it’s even more important to understand the scary facts behind many of the colorful Halloween treats that children and adults eat for Halloween -- and year round.

The candy industry has a history of adding synthetic or artificial food colorings that are initially approved as safe, but later found to be carcinogenic and cause other health problems.

Like all unhealthful ingredients, including synthetic additives and harmful fats, the purpose of using artificial food dyes is simply to make candy look more appealing so people buy more of it. Greedy and unscrupulous manufacturers want to "trick" oAmira Elganur children into eating even more candy than they otherwise would. Rather than using safer, plant-based food color, they recklessly add toxic artificial colorings known to harm children’s health.

Artificial colorings added to candy can pose serious health threats and significantly harm the immune system. The chemicals used to make synthetic food dyes often contain the type of molecules that can damage DNA and considerably increase the risk of cancer. These nasty and highly toxic chemicals should never be eaten by anyone.

For example, an artificial color called Allura Red AC (as well as several other colorings) is associated with hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder and even lower IQ in children. It's banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria because of it's effect on health. In the United States, it's widely used in makeup, drugs, soft drinks and, yes, Halloween candy.

Despite the fact that the FDA has approved their use and considers them safe in small quantities, artificial colors must be kept away from children. Adults should also stay away from these, but children are even more at risk. Children have smaller bodies, making them more susceptible to the effects of these chemicals. Moreover, children are still growing and developing, so it’s vital to keep them safe from these chemicals to prevent risk of serious diseases later in life. The dangers of children constantly eating these chemicals found not only on candy but many other foods including cereals, popsicles, juices and many other “foods” are real.

It’s no coincidence that one out of every three children born in 2000 is expected to develop what was once called adult onset diabetes. Almost 20 percent of children are overweight or obese and already showing signs of heart disease. For the first time ever, experts warn that children of this generation may be outlived by their parents.

Educate children and teach them about the evils of these artificial sugary sweets. Don’t make exceptions. Be creative and compromise with them. One "trick" is to buy "treats" from them, take them to do their favorite recreational activity instead, bribe them and give them something better or healthier, do whatever it takes to prevent them from dumping that entire bag of Halloween junk into their growing bodies. They don’t know any better. That’s your job as the parent. If nothing else works, don’t be afraid to let them be disappointed over such toxic candy—disappointment is much better than a compromised immune system.

Halloween is a wonderful and very old tradition. Let's reclaim it from the candy manufacturers. Focus on your own authentic traditions of Halloween. Take the kids to a pumpkin patch to pick their favorite pumpkin, help them create and make their own costume, let them enjoy the messy and slimy experience of carving their own Jack-O-Lantern and roast pumpkin seeds for them. Buy some organic pumpkins and have the kids help you make delicious baked pumpkin goodies (such as my Autumn Pumpkin Pie Cake!)

And if you take your kids trick-or-treating, have a plan ahead and discuss the rules with them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Print this article and give it to your neighbors so they can buy healthier treats to give out to trick-or-treaters.

  • Teach your kids about nutrition and tell them the truth about the dangers of artificial ingredients.

  • Require that they eat fruit and real food before they go trick-or-treating.

  • Throw away all candy that is colorful or any candy with labels that list “FD&C red no. 3” (or any other color), “color added”, “U.S. certified color added,” and don’t even think about giving it away to charities, food banks, shelters or your work place. It’s poison, and you won't be doing anyone any favors.

  • Buy some additional surprise toys or healthy treats that they might enjoy more and exchange it for the bag of candy as soon as they arrive at home.

  • Bake their favorite healthy cookies or dessert instead. This is not ideal, but it is way better than letting them eat carcinogens.

  • Set a good example and buy or make healthy treats to give to trick-or-treaters such as bags of nuts, popcorn, mini boxes of raisins, trail mix or money.

So enjoy the fun of Halloween. But skip the industrial candy and the health problems it causes.

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"I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self."


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What the Heck Is Askutasquash?

One of the greatest foods to enjoy in the fall and winter seasons is the succulent flavors, beautiful orange flesh and delightful texture of cooked winter squash. And while we have a tendency to favor pumpkin, there are dozens of varieties of winter squashes. They come in many sizes, shapes and skin colors but they are all delicious with mildly sweet and nutty flavors and subtle differences in taste.

Squash is available from August through March, but their peak season is October and November. The cultivation of squash dates back at least 8,000 years. In fact, Native Americans had been eating squash for many centuries and introduced the North American colonists to the wonderful new world of squash. The English name is derived from the Narragansett North American tribe word “askutasquash.”

Pumpkin, the most famous of all squash, is traditionally used to make Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween. Although pumpkin is usually treated as a vegetable, like all other winter squash, it's actually a fruit, botanically speaking. In fact, all summer and winter squash are fruits, not vegetables.

Winter squash provides us not just with great flavors and textures for our palates but also lots of nutritious goodness. They are excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, niacin, phosphorus, folate, iron and fiber. The deep yellow colors are indicative of the richness of healthful carotenoids such as beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Just half a cup serving of squash can provide a day’s worth of beta carotene essential for good eye sight and protection from free radicals.

Although it is hard peeling these edible gourds, especially the ones with harder and thicker skins such as kabocha, they are worth the trouble. Butternut squash and delicata are much easier to peel and cut.

All squash can be steamed, baked, roasted, pureed and added to soups, casseroles, salads and stews. With the exception of spaghetti squash, most squash is versatile to cook with. Different types of squash can be used interchangeably with other squash or even sweet potatoes.

Choose squash that is free of blemishes and decaying or moldy spots. They should feel heavy, solid and have a small stem still attached that feels firm. Store squash in a cool, dry place. Squash can last for weeks, if not months.

Some squash can be hard to cut, including kabocha. You’ll need a heavy chef’s knife and, even better, a meat cleaver. Cut off the stem, and with the knife or meat cleaver, chop once lengthwise so that the knife gets lodged in the top. Use a rubber mallet or heavy object to carefully hammer the part where the blade and handle of the knife meet to dig the knife deeper and make the squash split. Once open in half, scoop out the seeds and use a spoon to scrape out the pulp. Squash can be cooked, steamed or baked with skin on, as it will be easier to remove skin after cooking. But thinner skin squash can be peeled before cooking and cut up into cubes for roasting or making stew.

The Rate of Diabetes Growing

According to research by the Centers fro Disease Control, the rate of new cases of diagnosed diabetes among adults has increased by more than 90 percent in the last decade. The alarming increase of new cases went from 4.8 per 1000 people from 1995 to 1997 to 9.1 cases per 1000 from 2005 to 2007 in 33 states. Lead data analyst, Karen Kirtland, Ph.D. stated that, "this study demonstrates that we must continue to promote effective diabetes prevention efforts that include lifestyle interventions for people at risk for diabetes. changes such as weight loss combined with moderate physical activity are important steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk for developing diabetes."

I couldn't have said it better myself. We call diabetes a preventable disease because it is caused by the absence of healthy foods and daily exercise, which is what our bodies are designed for. And it doesn't happen overnight. Our bodies resist for many years, but there is only so much abuse they can take. We risk diabetes when we decide to eat processed industrial food laden with unhealthy pesticides, fats and additives, void of real nutrients and cooked in a way that is toxic.

The good news is that even people who have diabetes can control it and even reverse it by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. The body is an amazing machine and very rewarding when given what it needs to do its job as it's meant to do.

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Spicy Curried Squash and Chickpea Stew
(Serves 6)

Click on the picture for a closer look!

This delicious and out-of-this-world butternut squash and chickpea stew with wonderful and healthful Indian spices will definitely spice up your day. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this meal will give you a nice boost to your immune system and loads of energy.

Prep time: 20 minutes cooking time: 1 hour

Organic Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 jalapeno pepper, deribbed, seeded and roughly chopped
1½ teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup cashew milk (or soy milk)
2 cups light coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
6 cups butternut squash, washed, peeled, seeded, pulp removed and cubed (1-inch cubes)
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans, washed and drained
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt


1. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Stir in onions, garlic, jalapeno, turmeric, curry, coriander and cayenne sautéing for 10 minutes over low heat. Stir in milks and vegetable stock bringing to soft boil over low to medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Using an immersion blender or regular blender blend mixture until smooth.

3. Transfer mixture back to large pot and stir in squash and ginger. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add garbanzo beans, black pepper and salt simmering for 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Adjust seasoning, remove from heat and serve.


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