Escape from Candy Land


how to cut down on sugarWe welcome back health coach Mary McDonald (the mom who overhauled her kids’ sports snack stand), to provide advice on how to survive what Dr. Shifrin referred to last week as Candy Season.
—Drs. Lai and Kardos

If your home is like mine, you have an extraordinary amount of Halloween candy lurking in the most unusual locations:  inside an old roasting pan, under a pile of shoes in your daughter’s closet, or tucked in an end table drawer in your living room.  It’s an incredibly hard time of the year to eat healthy and to help your children make good food choices when sweets are so abundant from October to January.  I
t is disturbing to think about the bad eating habits that start at the holidays and can lead to an addiction to sugar throughout the rest of the year.  In order to combat the inevitable onslaught of sugary treats, here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Invite the “Switch Fairy” or “Switch Witch” to your home. If you’re tired of telling your children, “Step away from the candy!” then make sure it isn’t easy to access. Your kids will love you if you tell them the Switch Fairy will visit your home tonight to replace the candy with a toy, clothing, or their favorite item.  Keeping sweets out of sight will make it easier to replace the candy with a healthier option, such as fruit salad or a yogurt parfait. 
  2. So, what can the Switch Fairy do with the extra sweets? Contact your local dentist or do an online search for candy donation sites.  Many local organizations will buy back Halloween candy. This becomes a perfect way to subsidize the present that the Switch Fairy purchases. 
  3. Drink Water.  Staying hydrated is a great way to curb cravings.  When you crave sweets, there’s a good chance that you’re actually dehydrated and your brain is craving water.  When your kids are tired, instead of  reaching for a-little-something-sweet as a pick-me-up, try giving them a drink of water. You may be surprised that their cravings are reduced. Are you looking to make water more enticing?  Try purchasing a swirly straw and designate the straw for water only.
  4. Don’t drink soda.  Soda is nothing but liquid sugar and void of any nutrition.  Each 12-oz. can of Coke contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.  An easy way to reduce your sweets during the holiday season is to select water as your drink of choice.  If your child must have a soda, suggest splitting the can with your child or with a friend.  Pour a few ounces into each cup and throw away the rest.  It’s okay. 
  5. Increase your carbs!  Yes, you heard me correctly.  For years, carbs were given a bad rap.  Low carb diets promoted the idea that all carbs are created the same.  In fact, they are not.  Natural carbohydrates (the ones found in fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, and oranges) can help reduce your cravings for sweets.  Try reaching for one of these options before you go for a cookie.  For an added bonus, wash this snack down with a big glass of water.  You will be really surprised at how quickly you cure your sugar craving. Make fruit or veggies more exciting by using toothpicks to pick up the food.  See how many green peas you can fit on a toothpick.  Make it fun – who doesn’t like a pea eating competition?
  6. Chew Gum.  According to research from the University of Rhode Island, people who chewed gum consumed 68 fewer calories at lunch and did not compensate by eating more later in the day. Chewing gum also helped the study participants satisfy their cravings and resist fattening treats. And there’s more: Gum chewers actually burned about 5% more calories than non-gum chewers.
  7. Just say no.  Social pressure to join in and eat what others are eating can be overwhelming.  Most people are very receptive when you say, “No thanks, I’m full.”  Tell your children that it’s okay to “Just Say No”, whether you’re talking about food or other temptations.
  8. Cook from scratch.  Cooking, especially with your children, is a wonderful way to control the ingredients that are in the food that you eat.  There are many wonderful natural substitutions to cane sugar (stevia, agave syrup, maple syrup, dates, raisins, etc.) that provide an equal amount of sweetness to your food.  Become a scientist and experiment with alternative sweeteners.  Click here for recipe ideas. 
  9. Understand your labels.  Did you know that every 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar?  Understanding the basics of a nutrition label is critical to understanding what you are eating. 

So, as you and your family weave your way through the sweetest months of the year, think of inviting the Switch Fairy to your house for a home cooked meal full of natural carbs and a big cup of water.

Mary McDonald
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®

Mary McDonald holds a Masters of Education from Arcadia University and completed her health coach certification from Institute of Integrative Nutrition.  She is a high school teacher, a mom of four daughters, and an advocate for healthy food choices.  For more information on her health coaching services, please contact her at or visit her website at


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