It’s Halloween! Oh, the candy! But this treat can be a trick with serious effects for readers.
Find out why a treat with sugar affects reading so significantly, and use the 3-step action plan to avoid the negative effects.
When I think about how demanding reading is, it reminds me of being a parent. At first, there’s the birth! And then there are those early years of 24/7…everything! The physical demands of the early parenting phase are unprecedented. Later, the demands begin to shift. The physical demands lessen, but only to be replaced by greater mental demands. (Is there a parent you know who has not lost a night of sleep worrying about a child??)
Like parenting, reading has two distinct phases. For early readers, sounding out words and tracking the lines of the story requires lots of physical energy. As readers develop, however, “getting the word off the page” becomes more automatic, and so the physical demands are decreased. But the mental energy requirements skyrocket as the text becomes more complicated in content, vocabulary, and overall structure.
So, for parents and for readers, the real, ”full-brains-on” work begins in the second phase. This is when we need to have all of our mental energy available to us. And that is the real challenge with all the Halloween candy: the sugar has an energy-zapping effect that can deplete us physically and mentally, leaving us unable to do our respective jobs.
WHY IS SUGAR SO BAD
Let me not sugar coat it: Sugar is damaging in many ways. Here are two “biggies” that impact readers:
- In the short term, eating candy causes a meteoric rise is blood sugar–and an abnormally rapid rise in blood glucose. This leads to a dramatic crash, often within minutes (see graph below), and symptoms can include:
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating on tasks
2. In the long-term, consuming excess sugar is literally detrimental to your brain, particularly when you have to work on a mentally challenging task like reading. This is because “high blood sugar coupled with performing a mentally challenging task is associated with high levels of cortisol—a stress hormone known to impair memory.“
Difficulty concentrating? Impaired memory? The damaging effects of sugar on our readers are clear! Trying to manage it can be daunting. But there is hope!
THE GOOD NEWS…A 3-STEP PLAN:
Try this 3-step action plan to help your readers enjoy those Halloween treats!
STEP 1: Encourage Kids to Eat Strategically
- Avoid eating candy in the morning. Why? Because that’s when blood sugars and insulin levels are set for the day. Instead, guide your child to eat a healthy breakfast within one hour of waking.
- Avoid eating candy on an empty stomach, and always have some protein before the treat. As Shelly Robinson, nutritionist and health coach explains, “The key to keeping your blood sugar stable and preventing a crash in energy (that’ll have your or your kiddos going back for even more sugar) is to include a healthy dose of protein before your sweet treat.”
Why is this important? Because “…protein helps to slow down digestion effectively turning the carbohydrate in your meal into a slow release capsule and tempering the blood sugar response.”
STEP 2: Educate and Empower Kids
This movie is a must-see! Through its engaging presentation, it gives kids of all ages a chance to see the impacts of sugar. And its very empowering. (After watching this film, my 12-year-old decided to stop using maple syrup on his pancakes!) Arm kids with this knowledge. Then decide, with them, these two things: when and how much candy is reasonable.
STEP 3: Entice Kids with Healthier options
But let’s face it. They are still kids and will want something sweet. What was my ultimate treat? Caramel! I practically grew up on Rolos and Twix bars! Luckily, some very clever nutritionists have come up with a couple of great alternatives:
A Rolo alternative… Cinnamon Fig Doodles!
A TWIX bar alternative…Healthy Candy Cookie Bars
Even if Rolos and Twix are not your child’s thing, take these suggestions as food for thought! There are healthier choices out there that will satisfy a sweet tooth but not zap your reader’s energy!
This Halloween, help your kids enjoy their treats! Follow the 3-step action plan to master the sugar-spiking, reading-wrecking candies that fill our children’s Halloween bags. You’ll feel better about it, and so will your readers–today and tomorrow.
Find some FUN Halloween trivia here! 🙂
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