Promoting Healthy Social Norms during the Holidays

By Sarah Anstey – Dietetic Intern, Acadia University

It’s that time of year again and no, I’m not talking about getting all jazzed up for the holidays. I’m talking about the months from September to December when sun and fun move out and candy companies move in. September hits and we’re suddenly surrounded by Halloween candy everywhere we go. Don’t get me wrong; January to April is just as bad or worse, but September is when it all begins. September is when we trade in our bathing suits for our stretchy pants and succumb to the constant string of big food marketing. Halloween candy appears in September and continues to taunt us right up until October 31st. Then early in the morning on November 1st little elves swap all the leftover Halloween treats for Christmas candy. Well at least that’s what I believe must happen because suddenly little red and green chocolates are everywhere and I’m panicking because I don’t have my Christmas shopping finished! Thankfully I have some self control and am able to walk past the trans-fat without opening my wallet. Children however, are another story.
Children today are growing up in a society where it is normal to consume holiday themed treats weeks before the actual holiday. How many Halloween parties did your child attend? Between Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, daycare, school, town events, and friends houses I bet it was quite a few. I also bet they ate more than a few bobbed-for apples at each one. Now, we could all band together and try to persuade the candy companies to change their marketing schemes, but it seems to me that an easier solution, a more effective solution, would be to educate our children and help change some of the social norms they have come to believe.
At the Town of Berwick’s Halloween party this year costume-clad children munched on ghosts made of bananas, vampire mouths made of apples, and witches fingers made of cheese and red peppers. I was asked to help create these wholesome goodies in an effort to help change some of the social norms kids perceive surrounding Halloween parties. I was pleasantly surprised at the reactions I received from the party guests! Children of all ages (and their parents!) were blissfully munching on fruits and veggies while they decorated their pumpkins. The popular CTV program “Live at 5” even aired a segment about Berwick’s newest Halloween tradition, which was not only great publicity for the town, but also a fantastic way to spread the word about the whole concept of serving healthier options to children.
I loved trick-or-treating as a child. I love baking Christmas cookies. I love receiving chocolates (or buying them for myself) on Valentine’s Day. The problem doesn’t lie with the treats themselves; it lies with the social norm that is constant consumption. Join me in helping to change our social norms about holiday “treats” and post your ideas below to help spread the word!

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