After a beautiful drive in the late-October weather, pointing out trees of unusual brightness to my ten-year-old companion, I found myself, yet again, standing in the grocery store frustrated. Perturbed. Irritated. “How can I possibly make chocolate-covered pretzels for the party when all the chocolate made for melting has hydrogenated oils in it?!” Reaching for the bright blue bag of the pre-made chocolate-covered pretzels, I noticed that they didn't contain the offending ingredient. I calculated the cost of buying enough for 14 kids--nope! I finally gave up and went home with bags of chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. You have to be careful here: “chocolatey morsels” and other such deceivers are out there in rampant numbers. Ghiradelli white chocolate chips and the good old Nestle Toll House chocolate chips do not have partially-hydrogenated oils in them. I headed home hoping they would melt and re-harden like I wanted.
But, wait! Chocolate chips?! This is supposed to be a health blog!
Ah, yes. But I have kids. And I live in the real world: a world where there are parties and camping trips, lock-ins and field trips--an unending barrage of sugar-laden, fat-filled festivities. And I must navigate, trying to be mindful of my children's desires to be normal, fit in, and eat the food that looks so good!
Thus my dilemma on this beautiful October afternoon—Halloween, my least favorite day of the year. Not only is my mind full of questions about the spiritual implications thereof, but there is also the sugar. Think about it: a fun-sized 3 Musketeers bar has the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar in it. How many candy bars do most children eat on this night?! For me, it's just not worth sacrificing my children's health with such a massive amount of sugar for the sake of having fun or keeping a tradition. We have never gone trick-or-treating, but have done various other fun things around that time of year. We have chosen to do something else every year, even if it means making popcorn and watching a movie or playing games together.
This year I threw a party, which I hope to make our own tradition. My house was full of costumes, games, and chaos. Every family brought a crockpot of soup to share, I made some cupcakes, and we did a piñata variation that allowed kids with restricted diets to participate, too.* Melting non-hydrogenated chocolate chips onto pretzels was more time-consuming than buying pre-made bags of junk food, but it was worth it. I want my kids to have fun, happy childhood memories without thinking that having fun means over-indulgence or making yourself sick for the sake of sweets. I hope to strike that balance.
*We made a paper-bag piñata. Instead of just filling the bag with candy, we filled it with paper bags with kid's names on them. We finished filling the bags while the kids were playing other games, and each mom brought things she knew her child could have and would like. I also cut pieces of cardboard and placed them in each bag to protect the goodies from being smashed.