My View on Candy and Cancer
As a parent, addressing challenging questions from a curious 5-year-old can be a delicate balance of transparency and simplicity. Recently, my daughter’s innocent inquiry about the origins of cancer (on the eve of Halloween) spurred a thoughtful conversation about health, food choices, and the impact of our modern lifestyle on our well-being.
In the aftermath of Halloween, as we sat surrounded by the colorful array of candies, her question gained depth. The context was poignant, with someone close to her having recently succumbed to cancer. It was a stark reminder of the prevalence of this disease in our lives, from neighbors battling cancer to teachers undergoing chemotherapy.
My partner and I share a deep commitment to health, viewing it as an investment in our future quality of life. I see one of my opportunists for giving her the best gift ever (health) lay in translating health concepts into 5-year-old vocab. We wanted to be truthful while respecting where her brain’s abilities, all while recognizing the importance of educating her early about the connection between lifestyle choices and health.
I explained to her (in 5 year old-talk) that since the Industrial Revolution, humans have created industrialized foods laden with chemicals, stabilizers, and additives. These “man-made calories,” as I call them, contain substances our bodies aren’t accustomed to processing efficiently. Over the last 70 years, we’ve introduced a new type of calorie that, while providing some nutrients, also includes chemicals our bodies struggle to break down.
I likened it to a bathtub, where our bodies can handle a certain amount of these substances. However, an accumulation of processed foods leads to a point where our bodies become unsure of how to process and store these foreign elements. This, I told her, is a significant factor in the development of cancer. Her wide-eyed reaction indicated an awareness of the seriousness of food and cancer.
Taking advantage of the Halloween candy dilemma, I proposed an alternative. While she could enjoy a couple of candies, I encouraged her to opt for healthier dessert choices… that we have in our fridge. We discussed the varying forms of sugar and the importance of distinguishing between processed and natural sugars.
It was an opportunity to share our family’s approach to sweets, emphasizing quality ingredients and mindful consumption. We explored the concept that sugar, while not inherently bad, can feed cancer, and choosing sweets with honey or maple syrup can contribute to overall well-being. (If one has cancer then honey is also not helpful).
This conversation extended beyond Halloween treats to our broader lifestyle choices. We delved into the significance of nurturing our health through exercise, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding excessive intake of processed sugars. The goal was to help her understand the connection between what we put in our bodies and the impact on our health.
Reflecting on this interaction, I realized the gift of her curiosity. It prompted a broader discussion about health, paving the way for her to make informed choices as she grows older. As a food and mood coach, my mission extends to fostering a broader understanding of real food and de-normalizing the excesses of processed foods in our culture.
In wrapping up, I encouraged finding nutrient-dense alternatives for sweets and treats, making mindful choices that support a healthy lifestyle. As the holiday season approaches, I have a pumpkin pie recipe in the works… so stay tuned and choose nourishing foods.
Related posts: My Birthday and “That Sugar Film”