Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for kids. And, while as a parent you may not love the idea of all that candy, the last thing that you want to add to an already hectic day is a battle over food. Here’s some ideas about how to handle Hallowe'en candy.
Before I go into the ideas, first let me tell you that I’ve never come across any research studies where they specifically looked at family rules for Halloween candy and how it impacted kids’ life-long eating habits. But there have been studies about how sweets/ junk food in general are handled in the home and it’s impact on life-long eating habits, so that’s on which I’m basing my advice.
The reality is that unhealthy food is all around us. It’s an important life skill to be able to make healthy choices. Halloween is an excellent opportunity for kids to learn that skill of self-regulation.
Whenever I discuss this topic I’m transported back to my own childhood and how my brother and I had such different Halloween candy strategies. A child’s Halloween candy strategy is such an indication of their personality. Me: I ate it quickly. My brother’s pile, on the other hand, seemed to last forever, beckoning to me as I walked past his open bedroom door. I was certain that he ate it so slowly, and put it on display, just to torture me - a clever payback to his bossy older sister :)
How to Handle Halloween Candy: Toddlers and Preschoolers
Take advantage of these little ones’ naiveté and short attention spans. Limit the number of homes at which you trick or treat to only 2 or 3. This way they get to be involved in the fun of the holiday, but there isn’t too much candy received.
How to Handle Halloween Candy: School-Age Kids
Step #1 Fill Those Tummies: Fill their tummies before they go out trick or treating with a filling, healthy, favourite meal.
Step #2 Celebrate the Haul: When kids return home from trick or treating, let them pour over and be excited about their hauls. Afterall, they’ve been looking forward to this night for weeks!
Optional Step #3 Switch Witch: I like the idea of the growing tradition of the ‘Candy Fairy’ or ‘Switch Witch’. Inspired by the Tooth Fairy, kids can choose to leave out their candy for the ‘Candy Fairy’ who takes the candy away and leaves behind money. I’ve heard that some dentists and others are even getting in the act so that parents don’t have to pay out of pocket. An important point regarding this idea is that kids need to be able to have the choice of keeping their candy or leaving it for the ‘Switch Witch’. Remember, it’s important for kids to be given the opportunity to learn how to self-regulate with candy.
Step #4 Structure and Choice: For kids who keep their candy, I recommend letting them eat as much as they want on Halloween night. It’s a part of this one day’s celebration. But the next day, life is back to normal with planned meals and snacks (or as I like to call them: opportunities to eat). As the adult, you choose when candy gets to be on the menu. For example, at afternoon snack. Provide foods from 2 – 4 food groups along with the candy as normal. Let your child choose how much candy they want to eat at the meal/snack that candy is on the menu. Yes, it may mean that your child eats nothing but candy for that meal/snack. But it’s only once a day. And, they’ll eat through their candy faster. Create balance by not providing other treats at other meals (i.e. stay away from sugary breakfast cereal, sugary granola bars, no dessert at dinner).
Here’s an alternative strategy for older school-age kids who help to pack their own lunches and understand how to have healthy bodies we need to eat a balance of healthy foods and treats. You determine how many pieces of candy that your child can have in their lunch, e.g. 3 pieces. Your child chooses what pieces they want to pack. Again, balance this by not providing other treats at other meals.
Healthy Hallowe'en Fun
Are you looking for some fun, but healthier, Halloween ideas? I share lots on my Pinterest board. Check it out at: www.pinterest.com/kristenyarker