Rethink Halloween candy

Dear Editor:

I take my health, my son’s health and the health of the planet itself very seriously. So, when I saw the article about Halloween candy and health coexisting, I read on. I thought Jenni Wolf, the dietitian writing the article, would surely advise people to avoid the candy.

But no. Incredibly, she encouraged it.

Along the way she implies people have little to no control over their cravings and preferences. That there is no “good” or ’bad,” only “food.” And that eating some candy throughout each day is a “balanced” diet. This is harmful advice, backed by zero scientific research.

Like Jenni said, it can be frustrating and confusing listening to all the latest diet trends. And, so, it’s important to remember to ignore diet trend advice when it is not scientifically proven for health.

We already all know what is healthy, and it is backed by scientific research. It’s fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods in their whole form (as they are found in nature) encourage and support health in the body and the planet. When we eat these foods in abundance, our body has all the nutrients it needs and we will be less likely to seek out harmful foods.

Packaged candy is often sourced from unethical companies, using unethical practices. Packaged candy contains harmful ingredients, some of which are banned in the European Union.

Taking plant food, processing and refining it, combining it with animal products and harmful chemicals, molding it into a shape and wrapping it in plastic is not a health food.

This country is in a health crisis. Of the top 10 leading causes of death, most can be improved or prevented with a healthy diet.

I feel angry at people in positions of power like dietitians and doctors, who either didn’t learn about proper nutrition, or who chose to bend the truth for their clients and patients, telling them what they think they want to hear.

They don’t give people the real tools they need to succeed on their health journey. Maybe we’d all like to hear we can eat candy and cheese and crackers every day and still be healthy. But this is not true.

I feel sadness and compassion too, for all the people who struggle with their health. People who exercise and see little or no improvement, who take pills for various conditions, and who think they are eating healthy because a dietitian told them this food or combination of foods is healthy, when it is not.

We can all change ourselves and the world if we have the courage as a society to tell the truth and work toward what is really important. If a pleasure in our life is opening a plastic wrapper several times a day and ingesting the factory-made thing inside, we need to rethink where true happiness comes from.

Happiness comes from connections with loved ones, being in nature, nurturing a hobby or talent, trying new things and looking within ourselves. Choosing to stop harmful habits takes courage and determination.

I believe we can all change if we help one another, not enable each other to continue harmful behaviors.

Please refer to these websites for nutrition advice backed by science:

•  NutritionFacts.org

•  T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies: nutritionstudies.org

•  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: pcrm.org

Thank you,

Lauren Robinson,
St. Anthony Park


Jenni Wolf responds

Thank you, Lauren, for your feedback. I realize that nutrition is a nuanced topic. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist who practices from an all-foods-fit philosophy.

I believe the research that supports restricting and limiting foods and portions increases the risk for negative health outcomes while allowing permission for all foods supports and promotes positive health outcomes, less preoccupation with food, less disordered eating/dieting behaviors and a higher quality of life.

I absolutely value a diet based in whole foods that includes a wide variety of food sources and macro-nutrients. If you’ve read some of my past articles, I speak to the importance of building a balanced plate and tuning into your body to notice what it is communicating to you in regards to your nutritional needs.

At the same time, I, along with many credentialed, and respected dietitians in the field, believe and support the evidence and research that food is more than just fuel. Like you stated, it is connection with others and a way we can care for our environment, it is also pleasure and joy and part of our culture and traditions.

It was my intent, with the October article, to encourage readers to be curious about their thoughts and judgments around Halloween candy and how they engage with it — how does it factor into their nutritional needs, their needs to have pleasure and emotional satisfaction via eating enjoyable food, their needs to have fun and enjoy the holiday?

I am glad you feel grounded in your own needs and values, as well as your son’s, and how you choose to eat/live in order to honor our planet and environment. That is truly great that you are aware of what works for you and allows you to live a happy life.

Thank you for sending your resources. Since I am writing for the lay public, I often do not discuss specific, clinical research in my articles for the Bugle and instead summarize some findings, but mostly speak from my own clinical experience in the field, working one-on-one with individuals as well as groups, alongside, physicians, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists and psychotherapists who specialize in supporting individuals to nourish a healthy and normal relationship with food.

I have included some links to research articles addressing restriction, limiting and cutting out foods — some specifically around candy — that you may find interesting:

•  academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/6/1264/4714994

•  libres.uncg.edu/ir/asu/f/Galloway_Amy_2006_Finish_Your_Soup.pdf

•  ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3759019

•  christyharrison.com/book-anti-diet-intuitive-eating-christy-harrison

Jenni Wolf, MS, RD, LD

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