Halloween is here! As parents most of us will have to face that large pillow-sack full of treats or candies that makes its way onto our kitchen table or living room floor, whether it is this year or in years to come. The question is, how will you deal with it as a parent? Do you let your kids have a candy free-for-all so that it disappears quicker, or do you allow only one or two treats per day so that it lasts until Christmas? Do you make it disappear in other ways like by getting your kids to trade it in for non-candy alternatives or donating it?
Last year, my son was young enough that he didn’t really know what’s going on. He hadn’t quite reached the stage where candy was the main attraction for Halloween. He was excited to get into his “Superman” costume and head out trick-or-treating.
How you choose to deal with Halloween candies as a parent is a personal thing and there isn’t one right way to go about it. Why should we be worried about our kids consuming a lot of candy? If sugar-rich foods like candy are consumed too often and in large amounts, it can contribute to poor dental health, displacement of other nutrient-dense foods, and unhealthy weight gain.
So, how do we teach our kids about “treats” in general? As a dietitian and mom, I take the approach that there are no bad foods, just bad diets. What you do between Halloween this year and next year is relevant, what happens on October 31 is irrelevant. Fun-foods like candy and chocolate are delicious (come on, let’s be honest!) and shouldn’t be limited too much, or else you or your kids will desire them even more.
This year, my son kind of knows what Halloween is. As much as I feel the need to put my “dietitian hat” and play “treat police”, I try not too. I don’t want to take the joy out of Halloween from my son. Instead, take this opportunity to teach my son how to manage his treat intake on his own (now and in the future), and not feel the need to sneak, hide or gorge on treats. I want to take the advantage of this fun holiday to build my son’s healthy relationship with foods.
Here’s what I’ve done when my son is at the stage where candy takes priority over cute costumes.
Last Minute Buyer
Grocery stores are clever, they like to position those huge piles of Halloween candy conveniently when you first walk into the grocery store and your cart is empty AND where you can’t help but stare at them when you’re waiting at the check-out lane. Therefore, make sure to wait until the day before (or a week before) to buy Halloween candy, so that you and your kids don’t have to deal with the “See-Food syndrome“. Also, I always buy my least favourite treats to hand out – lollipop, gummy candies, smarties, etc. If I were to buy anything chocolate, that would be a different story.
If your favourite candies/treats are in the house, it’s more likely that you and your family will eat it ALL. Remember: Out of sight, out of mind; In your sight, in your mind.
Fuel Up Before Trick-or-Treating
Start the day with a wholesome, filling breakfast; encourage a healthy lunch, and be sure to serve healthy and balanced dinner to fill their tummies before heading out trick-or-treating. This way, you can prevent your kids become “candy monster” by the time they come home.
Pour It Out and Sort It Out
Using small bucket/bag and limiting number of houses your kids visit so that their candy-collection is smaller to begin with. When you arrive home with your child’s little sack full of goodies, before you do anything, pour it out and sort it out. Get them to separate “the favourites” and “the least favourite”, and ask if they will share with you. This is a good opportunity to teach them to be “picky”. Observe how much they consume without making any comments or rules since you might be surprised how many kids can self-regulate and eat only a few pieces.
Kids can choose a few of their favourite candies and then leave the rest out for the “Switch Witch” who takes it away and replaces it with a desired toy or non-food gift ( movie tickets, books, crayons or cash for older kids). Also, some parents have their kids actually donate it to a local food bank or a dental office.
Let Them Enjoy
On Halloween night, I let my son pick two to three candies to try out. For older kids, you can also allow your kid to eat as much as he/she wants.
Forbidding them from having any candy may just increase their desire for it.
Trust me, your kid might surprise you by having a few and then deciding to save the rest or gorging on them and eating until they feel sick. Enjoying fun-foods like candy and chocolate once in a while (even if that means a little everyday) is normal and it’s important that they don’t label these foods as “bad” foods. It also decreases the chances of your kids sneaking candy or over-indulging when you’re not there.
And I promise you, one night of gorging on treats will not effect he/her long-term nutritional status or weight. Most of the time, the kids seem to grow bored with their candy after a few days if it’s not restricted and rationed like crazy.
Happy Halloween !!