A Parent Playbook Resource
Live Q & A with Allison Madigan
Recorded October 20, 2021
Allison Madigan, DHN
Allison Madigan is a Holistic Nutritionist, founder of The Vitality Formula, a facilitator of The Wild Collective and mother. She helps overwhelmed women prioritize themselves and regain their energy and vitality. Her purpose is to empower them to lead a holistic, healthy and mindful life.
Recorded October 20, 2021
My name is Alison Madigan, and I am a holistic nutritionist.
I work with lots of women and families to help them optimize their nutrition and their energy and vitality and keep it really simple because I feel like in this space, it can often get really, really complicated. And that’s when it becomes hard for people to actually implement change because it becomes too overwhelming and one more thing to add to their plate.
So I really try to simplify things. So it is easy for people to make health and wellness a priority for themselves and their families. I’m just going to give us a couple more minutes here. I’ll get started in one minute, cause I want to be conscious of everyone’s time and thank you for taking the time out to join here today. The topic of today,
I’m just going to chat a little bit about sugar with Halloween coming up. It seems like a timely time of year to discuss this topic. And this is meant to be a Q and a. So I’m just going to kind of give you a little bit of info and share, and then please feel free to answer some, ask some questions that I will happily answer at the end.
Hopefully all the little ones are getting excited for Halloween. I know that after missing last year, my daughter is certainly excited to be going out again this year. And it’s kind of nice to see all of that returning like school and some of the normal activities. And it’s really nice for them to have that back in their lives. So let’s dive in here and talk about,
you know, I think abolishing sugar from our diet is not a realistic thing. So I am not going to be advocating that you or your children should never have any sugar. But what I will share is that we kind of want to have sugar in moderation. It’s one of those things that we don’t want to have too much of in our diet. It can lead of course,
to weight gain. If we’re eating too much, it can cause our insulin to be a little bit dysregulated. It can certainly affect blood pressure and it can have some mood impact as well. If we’re eating too much sugar, it’s going to throw other things off. Sugar will fill you or your children up, but it really has no nutritional value. So if you are allowing them to eat a lot of sugary snacks and sugary things,
they’re going to fill up on it, but they’re not really getting any nutrients from it because it’s sugar and then they might be too full to eat, come mealtime because they’ve had all this sugar, sugar is really addictive and there’s a lot of studies that actually speak to how addictive sugar is. So the more you eat, the more you’re going to want.
The average person, they say eats about 50 or 60 pounds of sugar per year. And on Halloween, they say that there are a number of children that could eat two to three cups worth of sugar in the Halloween candy that they collect that night, which is really a huge, huge number when it comes to immunity. I always love to kind of tie this a little bit into immunity,
especially this time of year, because we know around kind of after Halloween and into the winter, we start hitting like cold and flu season. Having a lot of sugar has an impact on the immune system. So it actually has been shown in studies to reduce the functioning of the immune system for about two days after eating a quantity of sugar. So after Halloween,
for example, the kids eat a bunch of sugar and then for two days, their immune system is not going to be functioning as well. So if there’s kind of constant inflow of sugar into their diet, then that means that their immune system is going to stay kind of that little bit down. We also know from a microbiome perspective. So all of that bacteria that is in your gut,
we know that sugar feeds the bad bacteria, and we want to have more good bacteria than bad bacteria to kind of stay in really good balance and a good equilibrium in our system. So the more sugar that we put in the more bad bacteria we can be producing within our gut, which is going to lead to other symptoms and issues that we really don’t want to deal with.
That being said, life is meant to be enjoyed. Halloween is going to happen. There’s going to be birthday parties and events. So it’s figuring out how can you incorporate the sugar? That’s going to come into the house for Halloween. How can you have enjoyment with this, but keep it within some parameters so that things don’t get out of control. So I would say one of the key things around sugar in general is you really don’t want to be using it as an incentive or reward.
We don’t want to be associating it at the same time as being, we don’t really want to associate foods as being good foods or bad foods. This can lead to a lot of issues down the road. If we start to ban sugar, for instance, and say that it’s bad, that can really lead to that desire to have more of it. So you kind of want to just treat it like any other food.
If we start to use it for a reward that can also get into a bit of a dangerous situation. As kids get older, they start to kind of associate those types of foods as a reward, and it can lead to some eating issues down the road. So you kind of just want to make it a neutral food. We really want all foods to be somewhat neutral and understanding that there is a place for it in your diet,
but it’s not something that we’re going to have huge quantities of when it comes to Halloween. Perhaps you can also look at some of the healthier things that you can do even at home to make Halloween fun with food. So maybe it’s doing the little Clementine oranges. You put the little eyes on, make it look like a little pumpkin, and maybe you put like one green Eminem or one green smarty or little piece of licorice or something to be the stem of the pumpkin.
You can do the bananas and make them look like little ghosts using chocolate chips in the eyes. So there’s things that you can do to make it fun with the food, but keeping the food choices healthier and more balanced. So they’re not just sugar based. We also, as parents need to kind of model this behavior, right? Because the kids are absolutely watching what you’re doing,
they’re paying attention. So if you’re kind of constantly eating the Halloween candy and getting into the Halloween candy, then they are going to be more likely wanting to get into the Halloween candy. So my recommendation is kind of everyone has that same rules as it pertains to the candy. And as an adult, I work with many women who kind of keep the candy in the cupboard and they go and they eat it secretly.
And they kind of grab at the candy and habit. And it’s those types of behaviors that we really want to eliminate because that’s us as adults feeling like, oh, this is bad. I shouldn’t be having it. You’re hiding it in the cupboard. And you’re kind of eating it in secret. It’s better to have your portion of it and enjoy it in the open because it’s a hundred percent okay.
And it’s not forbidden. It’s just the amount and the quantity that you’re, you’re going to be eating. And then I think this is a great opportunity. I think mindful eating is really important. I think we all need to get really in tune with our bodies and how we feel when we’re eating. What does it feel like to be full? Oftentimes we can eat so quickly.
We don’t register that feeling of full what foods make us feel good. How do we feel after we eat a food sugar and Halloween can be a great time to explain to children. You know, you have to start to listen to your body when you eat. So if you have too much candy and too much sugar, your stomach might hurt, you might not feel as well.
And if they’re aware of that, then that awareness can really help them through life, eat in a more balanced way, because they understand that they need to listen to the cues that their body is telling them and that their body is absolutely going to let them know that this is too much. Like I’m not feeling good. I think the key point when it comes to Halloween,
when it comes to sugar, is that you just need to have a framework around it because it’s the frequency and the volume of the food that you’re eating, that is going to be the ultimate issue. It’s not having the bits of candy. So what can you do to kind of try to minimize the Halloween night, overdoing it on the sugar. I want to leave you with some actionable tips that hopefully will help you and just keep them in your mind.
So if you have young children at home who are going to be trick or treating, they’re going to be all excited because they get all this great candy. Maybe you put some parameters in place that look like, okay, you can have this number of pieces of candy tonight. So maybe if your child’s four, maybe they can eat four pieces of candy on Halloween.
Then you could put the rest away in a cupboard and kind of allow them to pick if they want some of it with their lunch or their dinner, and kind of, you know, it doesn’t have to be every day, but kids kind of like it for a little bit after Halloween. And then they will forget about it. Another really good option is doing like a switch,
which if you’ve heard of that, where you kind of pick a few pieces, the child can have, and that’s their little stash of candy. And then the rest of it gets taken away by the switch witch. And then maybe you replace that with a little toy or a book, some coloring things, something that is not food related, really encouraging the fun of Halloween,
but not necessarily the gorging on the sugar because the sugar definitely is going to have an impact on them. And they’re not going to feel good. And I mean, I know as a kid, I remember you’d have huge bags and you’d want to come home when you were a bit older and drop off one bag to go, to get another bag. And it,
it could take me till after Christmas to eat through all my candidates because I got so much of it. So I think it’s really just figuring out a system that works for you and your family, depending on the ages of the children. And I really liked the allowing some candy the night of Halloween. Absolutely. And allowing that enjoyment. So it’s not forbidden and it’s not bad,
but then figuring out a way to kind of portion it out after, and kids are kids. And there is that kind of shared experience where they, oh, what little treat am I going to get in my lunch today? And that’s totally okay. When we look at sugar in our diet and our children’s diet as a whole, because it is, does not have that nutritional value.
If you’re eating a lot of sugar, it’s absolutely gonna have an impact on your blood sugar, right? So it doesn’t have nutritional value for you. But what happens is you eat it, your blood sugar goes up and then your pancreas has to secrete insulin to help bring your blood sugar back down because you don’t want it up here. Right. And if you’re eating sugar,
what happens is you kind of eat it. Your blood sugar is going to go up. Your insulin is going to bring it back down again. And that’s why you get that kind of crash. So you get that energy and then you crash after that’s your blood sugar coming down. If you’re kind of filling your day with sugary foods, and that could even be stuff like muffins,
white bread, any kind of refined carbohydrates. So if you think about your kids’ diets and kids do love carbs, but if you think about their diet, if they’re having a lot of refined carbohydrates, that’s converting very quickly into sugar within their body. And they might be on a bit of a roller coaster. So what can you do to help that is make sure that they have protein at every meal.
So whether that be eggs or meat or some dairy like yogurt, those are all fish, great options for them to get some protein in, but that’s going to help to stabilize the blood sugar. You also want to make sure that they’re having healthy fats because again, healthy fats really don’t have a huge impact on your blood sugar. They help them feel full and satiated and give them all the energy that they need.
So they’re not going to be having these kind of up and down waves in their energy. And then you also really want to check the packaging of any sauces like tomato sauce is a prime example. A lot of tomato sauces. If you look at the jar, they have sugar in them, but you can just pick the one kind of next to it in the aisle,
and it’s not going to have sugar. So really start to look at any sauces, salad, dressings, those types of things can often have sugar where you wouldn’t think to look for sugar. And if you can kind of cut that down, it’s actually quite amazing how much sugar you can cut out of a diet when it comes to cereal in the morning.
That’s another great one to start to look at the packaging, some sugars or some cereals can have like 10 to 12 grams of sugar in one serving. That’s a good, that’s a large amount of sugar. And first thing in the morning, what is that going to do when you’re kind of setting your child up for the day they’re having this cereal and their blood sugar is going to go up and then they’re going to have that kind of crash.
Not that long after in the morning. So really trying to set them up for success as far as their day day goes would be not to start with those, the cereals, and even the ones that aren’t the kind of lucky charms are the ones that you would identify as sugary cereals, look at the cereal boxes and just check how much is in there.
It’s always just good to do the double check. So you know exactly what your child is eating. And I think really the last thought I will leave you with as it pertains to kind of the sugary treats and Halloween is really reinforcing that you don’t want it to be forbidden you and you also don’t want to make a really big deal about it. We kind of just want to be neutral about it.
So if you have a bento style lunchbox, you know, they’re going to have all of their things, picture it that way. They’re going to have some protein. They’re going to have some carbohydrate source. Hopefully they have some fat and then, you know, plop in a few of the M and M’s that they got, or the Smarties that they got just kind of have it there and not make a big deal about it.
We really tend to make a big deal about these foods and that causes that’s what can start to cause a lot of the emotional issues down the road that people have with food. So I am going to kind of leave my talk there because I feel like these really it’s great if it’s interactive and we get questions and some people had emailed in some questions ahead of time that I can go over with you all as well.
And I see one here. So the first question coming in here is from Shaheena. I hope that I, I pronounced your name, right? And her question is how much sugar is okay for cereal. When it comes to cereal, I would say, you really want to be looking for cereals that have less than five grams of sugar in them on a whole day.
If you think of how much sugar really a child or us should really be having, you really want to be having under kind of 25 grams, which roughly equates to like six teaspoons. So that’s still a fair amount of sugar, but that’s kind of the recommendation. So anything, any of those cereals that are kind of in that five to 10 range are getting on a bit of the higher side.
So definitely worth checking the cereal boxes. I think the Shreddies are okay if I recall correctly from the packaging on them. So one of the other questions, if you have any more questions, if you’re on here live, please feel free to put them in the chat. But one of the other questions that came in was, and here’s the question, does sugar impact behavior?
So absolutely sugar is going to have an impact on a child’s behavior, the same way it would on an adult. It can cause those kinds of hyperactivity, it can make it hard if they’ve had a lot of sugar and they react to it, it might make it hard for them to kind of sit still and focus. It can cause sleep disturbances depending on when the sugar was consumed during the day.
And the other thing to note about sugar for both children and adults, is that it can cause issues with mood and feelings of anxiety, because it is causing you to go on that kind of rollercoaster ride. So if you notice that your child is kind of having their feeling, if they’re old enough to be able to express that they’re feeling anxious or they’re having points where they’re feeling,
kind of like they have all this, this nervous energy pent up, it might be a good time to evaluate what they’re eating and what sugar they might be having to see if there’s little shifts that you can do in your diet. Certainly there are children. And I just want to preface this by saying, I am by no means saying that sugar causes anxiety or hyper activity.
Absolutely. That’s not the message that I want to send because there are going to be children and people that struggle with anxiety and hyper activity. And it’s absolutely not a sugar issue, but if you start to notice kind of little changes that aren’t all the time in your child that are inconsistent with kind of a typical day, look to see how, what they’re eating and how they might be reacting to that.
And then I had another question come in before about here’s the question, what candy can my two-year-old have? So this is a great question. And I think some of it I already talked to earlier, but I think at two years old, if there’s no older siblings in the house, they really don’t need to have much at all. You can maybe give them like a piece if you want it to,
but if there are older siblings in the house and they’re all participating in Halloween, then that can be hard because they see what the older siblings are going to do and they want to participate too. So my recommendation would be, you know, give them a couple pieces and then put it out of sight. And then at that age, I do really think that switch,
switch or whatever you want to call it in your house, kind of switching it out and give them something that is non sugar related. I think it can work really, really well for a child of that age. You could also for a two year old base it out a little bit and give them, you know, a little bit with a lunch or a dinner as well.
That’s absolutely okay, too. And that just made me think of another point in terms of timing when they have the sugar. So if you know, they’re going to be having the little Halloween treat of sugar, I would recommend having it with a meal, not having it alone, because if you can kind of pair it with a meal, then you’re going to make sure that they’re getting all of the nutritious stuff and all of the food,
and then they can that with the meal. And also if they already have kind of the protein, the healthy, fat, everything from the meal in their stomach, it’s going to help slow down the release of that sugar into their bloodstream. Whereas if they just went and had the chocolate without any other food, it’s going to get into their bloodstream much quicker.
And again, cause that kind of up and down rise that we don’t want to see. Does anyone on here have any other questions? I’m sorry for the strange lighting today. I got booted out of my office for my husband today at the last minute. So I apologize for the overhead lighting down here. So I don’t see any additional, oh question.
Oh, here’s another question from Shahina the question is we do a treat once a week. So is it okay for them to have chocolate or cupcake before dinner versus after to help reduce the effect on sleep? So I would recommend that they have it after dinner. If you give it to them before dinner, then that might make them fall and they won’t eat as much of their dinner.
So my recommendation would be to have them eat their dinner. And then when they’re done with their dinner, then they can have that as a dessert. My fear really would be if you gave that to them first, if that ever filled them up too much, then they wouldn’t eat the other food. And I think if you’re talking once a week and they’ve already been doing this and you haven’t noticed a huge impact on their sleep,
then it’s probably working for you and for them. And it’s not, it’s not an issue that you have to worry about. One more question is one hour before sleep. Okay. So ideally I usually recommend that we don’t eat within a couple hours before bed because we want all the food to digest with some children. I know this can be hard, but I would say if you can,
and it depends on their age as well. If they’re kind of eating and then their bedtimes early, when they get home from school or if they’re out aftercare and then it gets, they can get crushed. But I would say trying to spread it out as much as you can before bed is just better because then the food can be fully digested before they go to sleep.
Okay. Oh, there’s one more question on here from Jen. And the question is, can you please expand on the effect of sugar and sleep? Absolutely. So the research shows that there is some research that shows when you’re eating a lot of sugar and this would not be just having the little Halloween candy, but when we’re talking, eating a lot of sugar,
they have done sleep studies to look at sleep. And what it shows is that it causes people to have a less restful deep sleep. So that’s one of the issues that you can get into is that the quality of sleep is not going to be as good. If you’re eating a diet that is high in sugar, the other impact that it can have,
and that I have seen in some people is if people are nighttime, snacking on sugary foods and they’re doing it later. So there, this is more adults, but the same would hold true for children. But if they’re watching Netflix, for example, and they’re eating sugary treats, I have had some people who it bothers their digestive system. So as they’re trying to kind of go to sleep,
they feel like their stomach is having to digest all these snacks that they had. And then they feel like it gives them that energy. So they kind of start to get that peak of the sugar high as they’re trying to go to sleep. So then they’re not able to go to sleep as well, which would happen absolutely in kids as well. So if you think of Halloween night and if they’re eating a lot of sugar and they’re going out,
they trick or treat that, eat the sugar and then they come home and try to go to bed. They’re likely all wound up because they’ve kind of gone on the sugar high. So it’s going to make it harder for them to fall asleep. And then within their body, it’s going to result in having a less restful sleep. So the quality of sleep that night is not going to be as good.
And again, for the one night for Halloween, is that going to be the end of the world? No, it’s more if it becomes a pattern, hopefully that answered the question for you. Shahina sorry. My phone cut out earlier. What time is ideal for dinner and healthy bedtime snacks? So I am not a huge proponent of bedtime snacks. So in our house we have always done dinner and then that was it for the day.
I recommend for everyone, adults, children, that, and this again depends on the age, but I would say if your child is going to bed around eight o’clock, then I would have six, six year old twins. Okay. So at six years old, I think they could be done eating by six o’clock. And are they going to bed at maybe eight o’clock I’m I’m if you can put in the chat,
what time they normally go to bed? Eight 30. Yeah. So if they ate around six o’clock and went to bed at eight 30, hopefully they would have enough dinner to hold them over. I’m not a huge snack lover as a whole. So my usual recommendation would be kind of having three meals and a snack, but the snack would fall in that kind of after-school time in the afternoon.
And not at night, if they’ve had enough to eat during the day, they really shouldn’t be needing from a hunger standpoint and calorie standpoint. They shouldn’t be needing a bedtime snack. So Shaheena commented. They always ask for snacks and say, they’re hungry at night. I will work on this. So if, I mean, absolutely. If you do think they’re really hungry,
then you want to make sure that they’re not going to bed hungry. Just going to turn off. I feel like my internet is if they’re actually hungry, then absolutely. You want to make sure that they’re having a snack. You don’t necessarily need to send them to bed hungry. But I would say if they really are hungry, I look at what they’re eating for dinner and what their after-school snack is.
And I would look to kind of up that a little bit so that they’re not hungry in the evening. Sometimes kids say they’re hungry. My daughter does this a lot and she’ll say, I’m really hungry. I need a snack. And then when I offer her vegetables or some leftovers from dinner, she suddenly is full. So sometimes it’s just, you know,
they want that little extra something, hopefully that helped answer the question. Does anyone else have anything that they want to know about sugar or anything else? We’ll just give you a minute. If you have anything else to chat in, and then the recording of this will be sent out to everyone that signed up, even if they weren’t able to make it live,
they’ll be able to take advantage of the content. Okay. So I don’t see any more questions in here. So thank you all so much for joining in today. And, oh, there’s one more question, Anna. I have a 20 month old and she doesn’t want to eat soup, salad or vegetables she used to, but now she refuses or eats really little portions that is hard,
Anna, and that’s a hard age to kind of start navigating those picky eating. What I would say is just keep trying it’s that it’s frustrating, but it’s that repeated exposure and it might just be a little phase. So I think trying to expose her to them in different ways like you’re doing, I think is great. So if you’re offering her salads,
if you’re offering her some cooked vegetables, soups, do them in different ways. Maybe you can find one that she will kind of cling onto and have a little bit, but it’s really just continuing to expose her to those foods. And what you will likely find is that she will start picking up and eating them. I guess it’s a lot of kids go through that phase and it feels really,
really frustrating. But even if she’s eating little portions, you might be thinking it’s less than it is. And she really is getting some, yes, that would be really frustrating. And if you’re three and a half year old starts doing the same thing, I’m sorry to hear that. But I think it’s just keep doing what you’re doing and really make sure that you’re still offering them.
Like here’s the food for dinner and don’t make up for it another ways, especially with your three and a half year old. So offer the food that you’re offering for dinner. Ideally, you know, it’s kind of a family meal and just keep offering that and likely you’ll find with her. She might start gravitating towards one or two that she’ll have, and maybe she’ll have that for a while and then she’ll move on to something else.
Sometimes that’s how the picky eating can go. So maybe she’ll start eating sweet potato and she’ll love that for a bit. And then she won’t eat that anymore and she’ll move on to broccoli. It’s always hard to predict, but just keep doing what you’re doing and keep offering it cooked in different ways, which it sounds like is exactly what you’re doing, which is great.
Just give it another minute here to make sure that I don’t miss any questions that might come in. And for any other contents you can, there is content on the parent playbook. There are some kind of course materials that you can go through and more will be uploaded. I’m planning to record some more in the next month. You can find me on Instagram.
If you’re looking for tips at Alison underscore Madigan, and I will be doing this again in November. So I will be back on here, live taking any questions that you have. And if you think of anything else that you want answered, you can certainly go onto the parent playbook, Facebook page and just tag me in it. So I am sure to see it,
but you can ask your questions there at any time, not even related to this, but if you have any questions, as it would relate to nutrition or food for you or your children, you can put it in the parent playbook and just tag me and I will see it and I will get back to you in there as well. So I hope that this was helpful for all of you.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween. I hope all the kids enjoy it and enjoy the candy. Just remember to put some kind of parameters around how much of it and how you’re going to manage that ahead of time. So it’s all set up. I hope you enjoy the rest of your afternoon and we will see you again soon.