Anyone else have a heck of a time managing their kids obsession with all sugary things – especially Halloween treats?
As a Certified Nutritionist I know the ins and outs of what foods to avoid. Sugar is at the top of the list. And then there’s all the research pointing fingers at sugar for contributing to health concerns.
In 2017-18, 4.8 million kids ages 10 to 17 had obesity, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found 18.5% of kids ages 2 to 19 had obesity.
The incidence of type 2 diabetes in youth has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. In the U.S., estimates are as high as 5,000 new cases per year according to the ADA.
The impact of sugar doesn’t stop there. It’s associated with other health concerns including behavourial issues among children.
So naturally my instinct was to keep any and all sugar out of the hands of my kids.
But having also studied how food / feeding approaches affect children in the long term (i.e. eating disorders, emotional eating, and yes even obesity), I chose to handle treats a little differently the past few years.
Before I dive in and reveal my approach, know that I place no judgement on anyone for what they decide to do. Parenting is hard stuff!! Add sugar into the mix and it gets even harder!
Just do what feels right in your gut.
So without further adieu, here are…
5 tricks I use for managing Halloween treats
#1 – LET THEM GO TO TOWN.
Before going free-for-all with candy, what usually happened was this…
- We would say “you can ONLY have two pieces”
- But they would beg and beg
- So we would let them have another two pieces
- But then they would beg and CRY for more
- So we’d give in, or deal with tantrums.
In the end, they ended up having those 5 pieces anyways! So now I just let them enjoy until bedtime, without saying NO a million times. Saves the drama, tears, and makes them less obsessed.
#2 – TAKE THEM TO FEWER HOUSES.
So they don’t come home with a lifetime supply of candy. But when my husband takes them trick-or-treating they magically hit every darn home on the street (read: Keith was craving the ol’ sweets and used his children as a vehicle to fill his pockets).
That’s when I move to tip #3.
#3 – STORE HALF THE CANDY.
Depending on how much they come home with, I’ll pack some of it away in the cupboard. Out of sight out of mind – for adults and kids! This way they are left with a reasonable (about 20 pieces) to spread out over the following days. The rest goes to Keith’s office (or gets eaten in the car on his way there!). #Illneverknow
#4 – OFFER CANDY WHEN NOT EXPECTED.
I then give the girls one piece in their lunch box every day for the next week – ideally before they ask me. They realize that they don’t need to beg me, or sneak candy, because mommy is happily doling it out. And then I might offer another piece with dinner periodically. All of this to make these palatable foods accessible, but not obsessed over.
#5 – SHOW THEM HOW TO SAVOUR.
Research shows that when we take the time to taste our food, we eat less. So I’m really trying to teach the girls mindfulness at meals, especially when eating “treats”.
- I asked them to close their eyes and guess what colour gummy they were eating.
- I asked what it tasted like, or reminded them of.
- I asked them how long they could keep it in their mouth before swallowing.
This way they weren’t ramming jube-jubes in their mouth without thought.
It was amazing to see them ration their stash, and even take a bite out of a chocolate and ask to save it for tomorrow. They are learning how to manage their intake already.
I also try to teach my kids that a treat doesn’t have to be unhealthy. That’s why I chose one of our favourite healthy snacks for Halloween. Good old SeaSnax.
I know…you think I’m nuts for doling out sea vegetables for Halloween.
Given that 95% of houses would likely be giving out chocolate or candy, there was room for something different. Plus, I would be happy if there were leftovers! (I love SeaSnax!) However, I was surprised to see and hear that children were pretty thrilled to see something different in their pumpkins and pillow cases.
I actually heard one little boy yell “Mommy look! It’s SeaSnax!” as he walked away from the house. #highfives
Ok back to my tricks….
In case it wasn’t clear why I changed my tune with the treats, here are a few reasons:
IT’S ONLY ONE NIGHT. OR ONE WEEK.
My girls went to school with salmon, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, flax crackers, baba ganoush (eggplant dip), blackberries, and tomatoes today. Their other lunches (and dinners) look pretty close to this. It took a lot of work and many of the strategies I share in my Free Webinar to get them to a place where they eat nutrient-dense meals 80-90% of the time. This way I don’t have to bite my tongue watching them suck on lollipops.
SWITCH WITCH IS STILL A FORM OF PRESSURE.
I was loving the idea of the Switch Witch (who comes and steals your child’s candy), but experts in the feeding space believe the Switch Witch implies control and pressure…because the goal is to decrease/restrict candy intake. Ultimately it doesn’t help children learn how to manage candy long-term.
TEACHING THEM TODAY, FOR TOMORROW.
It’s beneficial to keep these ‘treats’ around because it helps our kids learn how to behave around palatable foods, like Halloween candy. They also see how their parents behave around these treats, and control their intake (ideally without guilt) which influences their behaviour. Because a young adult who is never exposed to “palatable foods” (aka Halloween candy) will have a tough time eating them without shame/guilt.
FOOD SHOULDN’T HAVE POWER.
I realize I’m sharing extremes here, yet treats are likely not 100% forbidden in your home. So take and apply what works for you and your family.