A Realistic Approach To Dealing with Halloween Candy Overload!
I remember as a young child the enjoyment I got from trick or treating and being able to come home and enjoy my candy. We used to sit at the table and look at the good stuff we got and sort out all the “crappy” candy. My dad would hoover trying to persuade us to give him is favorite. When I was 13 years old Halloween changed for our family when my youngest sister was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes and wasn’t allowed to eat the candy anymore. Halloween took on a new meaning because we had to shield our candy eating and enjoyment from my sister. My parents tried to salvage the event by allowing my sister to charge us for her candy, but my poor sister always got the short end of that stick (truth be told no one actually paid her). Unfortunately, this restrictive approach DID NOT work and backfired BIG TIME because my sister never learned manage candy and learned to sneak it. Children are resourceful when they really want to be. Now, my mom was only doing what the medical professionals were telling her, but it still us all up for not learning how to manage candy.
Halloween is supposed to be fun! When we obsess about candy or not eating candy, it can cause more issues. It’s interesting I had someone tell to me this week, I don’t buy the candy until October 31st because my kids and I will eat it all. However, believe it or not restrictive thinking around candy will make the problem worse. It will only put a bandaid on the problem. If you have children and you are stressed thinking about Halloween, this is a must read.
Rather than get caught up and stressed about candy, take a different approach and think about candy as a learning experience for your children. Children will do best when they learn to manage the food. Yes, even candy.
I can remember when my daughter was old enough for me to implement the advice I had given other parents for years. She definitely ate ALOT of candy. It made me sweat a little truth be told, however, what happened after was what helped her to learn to manage candy.
On the way home, she told me her belly hurt. This helped me to bridge for her that the pain in her belly was probably from eating more candy then her belly needed. I gently said, “Well do you think that maybe you ate a little too much candy.” Her response, “Yes, mamma.” She didn’t ask for candy again for some time. There was no guilt or shame about it! Now, almost 3 years later she eats the candy and moves on. Truth be told her Halloween candy last year lasted well into the next year.
So while techniques like hiding the candy, the switch witch or donating it to the troops exist, you may want to look at how they are teaching your children to manage candy in the long run. How they learn to manage (or not manage) their candy will have a long-lasting effects. If you are open to the idea of taking a different approach, read on. These are the 3 Key Steps on How to Handle Halloween Candy to set your children up for success!
#1 Eat dinner prior to going trick or treating. Before dinner announce to your child, “Tonight for dinner is XYZ, eat as much as you want or as little as you want because for snack tonight you will be eating your candy.”
#2 Upon returning from trick or treating allow your children to sit at the table with their candy to sort it, share it, talk about it, and most importantly eat it. Announce to your children, tonight you can eat as much candy as you want until your are full. Tomorrow for snack you can do the same thing. Then, allow them to eat as much as they want. YES, you heard me, as much as they want. Is your child going eat a lot of it? Most likely. However, allowing them the autonomy to decide how much and what to eat from their candy will allow them to lose interest too.
#3 Do it again the next day. At snack time, allow them to put their candy on the table for snack again. I would recommend adding another snack to the table too, maybe some cheese, milk, fruit just in case they don’t want to to fill up on the candy. Announce to your children again, “Tonight for snack we are having candy and X (whatever else you decide to serve). Eat as much or as little as you want until you are full.” Then, allow them to fill up any way they want until they are full.
#4 After the second day, put the candy away in the cabinets. Use the candy occasionally at meal and snack times as regulated by you.
If you can let go of the control around candy and trust your children to manage their candy they will grow up to understand that candy is “no big deal” can learn to be comfortable enough to fill up and then move on. As in the case with my sister, when restriction was involved it only heightened the issue around candy and led to sneaking, shame and poor eating/food relationship. A child who eats more candy than usual for two days will NOT suffer nutritionally.
Yes, this may be what some will call a different approach, but it’s one that will shape your child into becoming competent eaters. Competent eaters actually do best nutritionally!
Don’t let the fear of all the Halloween Candy hold you back from teaching your children to manage the candy. EMBRACE the day, ENJOY the day and then keep MOVING!
What do you think, is this something you could consider?
Dana Snook, RDN, CIC