The scariest part about Halloween is not the ghosts, goblins, or witches; it’s the sugar. That’s because too much sugar can be a recipe for trouble for your microbiome (among other health issues). Though the current limitation to sugar intake in kids is less than 10% of total calories daily, It’s estimated that our little ones eat anywhere from 3 to 4 pounds of candy on Halloween night alone. Even though this heavy consumption is, in fact, just one night, it may set the stage for craving sugar all holiday season. That’s because studies indicate that consuming sugar alters our brains in a way that leads to wanting more of it.
Here’s why having less sugar may make better sense for your health.
Sugar may negatively impact the microbiome.
- A 2021 animal study in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that diet in childhood could lead to permanent changes in the microbiome later in life, citing excessive fat and sugar as the main culprits of worsening gut health. Other studies have associated excess sugar with alternations in the microbiome that could put an individual at risk for metabolic diseases, obesity, and pre-diabetes.
Sugar, even short binges of it, may feed the wrong microbes.
- Imagine your gut is a battlefield, with the good microbes on one end and the harmful microbes on another. Arming the good microbes with plenty of fiber, fermented food, and plants will diversify and prioritize the good microbes. However, feed the bad ones, and their army will strengthen. Studies show that the harmful microbes feed and thrive on sugar. High sugar diets have also been found in the research to decrease microbial diversity – a key component to a healthy gut.
Sugar may impact the gut-brain connection.
- A 2021 animal study found that having too much sugar in childhood could impair cognitive function and memory in adulthood. Researchers found that the connection most likely occurred due to changes in the gut.
In addition to these adverse associations with excess sugar, it’s important to note that sugar is often contained in foods with low to no nutrient density. When too much sugar is consumed, healthy foods often are not. As a dietitian, I’ve seen this with my patients who fill their bodies with so much sugar that there is simply no room for healthy foods.
Kids should of course enjoy Halloween and all the ghostly fun that goes along, but some choices may be better than others when it comes to their candy bags. First, choosing candies with nuts can help to get in some healthy fats, and options with dark chocolate may offer more flavonoid-rich antioxidants. Another option is to limit the amount after the big night by allowing one piece daily afterward instead of free will to the candy loot indefinitely. Healthy foods that are high in nutrient density may also be a consideration at Halloween time. The key is transforming them into fun shapes that fit the Halloween theme.
Our Jetson team loves these broccoli witches’ fingers. They are fun, fiber-filled, delicious, and have all the components that help our gut health thrive!
Broccoli Witches Fingers
- 12 ounces of steamed in-bag broccoli
- One egg, beaten
- 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbs. cream cheese
- 1 tbs. minced garlic OR 1 tbs. garlic powder
- 1/4 cup of whole almonds
- Optional ketchup for dipping
- Steam broccoli in a bag according to the instructions.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, simply chop broccoli in small pieces and mix in a bowl with other ingredients.
- Form into long round sticks (like a witch’s finger) and place on a lined baking pan.
- Cook for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, flipping halfway through.
- For added fun, add black fingernails on the ends of each stick (remove before serving).