So this Halloween is going to be a little different huh?  Here in Toronto we are being advised to avoid trick or treating, which I knew the kids would be really bummed about.  So we have a plan B that I feel good about. I’m going to share how we are doing Halloween this year if you need inspiration.

Keep reading for my top tips for managing Halloween candy – especially during a pandemic!

COVID aside, Halloween presents a few other challenges – especially for our little sugar-obsessed monsters (I mean kiddos).  There’s a reason why children gush over all things sweet, sugar-y and carb-y.  Heck I can name a few adults who enjoy a sweet thing or two.  Am I right?  Sugar is tasty!

Plus these foods provide quick fuel without much effort (thanks to the glucose we get from those refined sugars). Clearly sugar isn’t something we want our kids to be consuming on a regular basis.

Healthy Halloween Treats

So why are we flooding kids with candy on October 31st every year?

First of all, Halloween doesn’t have to be ALL about the candies. Here are some healthier Halloween options I’ve used I previous years.  My girls don’t get chocolate nor candy every day or every week.  However, I believe there’s a balance when it comes to what we feed our children. Don’t fall off your chair when I say this, but there is a place for sugar and sweets…and Halloween treats.

In a world where we have easy access to sugar (and kids get exposure at school, playdates, etc) it’s really hard to avoid.  Of course, I would be hands off if I lived on an island with no other humans.  But that’s not reality (and it would be pretty lonely!).

Deprivation can present challenges down the road if a child feels they have restricted access to certain foods (like sweets).  That then backfires when they are no longer attached at our hip and have the freedom to make their own food choices.

Setting up a healthy relationship with food starts now – and even on Halloween.

So while my older girls are dressed up as the Descendants, and the littlest one will be the cutest Minnie Mouse ever (according to her mom), we embrace Halloween for what it is.  Let me show you

My Top Tips for Managing Halloween candy (especially during a pandemic)

​​Tips for Managing Halloween candy

#1 – HOST A SCAVENGER HUNT

The kids have had so many things taken from this this year – being pulled out of school for months, no playdates or after school programs.  I’m not taking Halloween from them too.  Truthfully, all they want is costumes, candy, and connection.  So that’s what they are going to get.
If the weather is decent, we’ll take them for a stroll down the street to check out all the decorations (our neighbourhood takes Halloween to the next level which is super fun).  Then we will let them run around the park and search for treats (which I’m going to hide in a designated area so there’s no interference with other kids).
Easy peezy.  Our family will get some physical activity, the kids get their candy and costumes, and the parents get to sit back and relax (hopefully with a warm cider in hand).
If the park is too packed, or the weather goes sour, we will take the scavenger hunt indoors.
.

#2 – LET THEM GO TO TOWN  

Yup, I let the kids go nuts on their candy and eat as much as they like.  It sounds like bad parenting, I know!  But by the time they get indoors, take off their costumes, sort out their candy, then re-sort it five more times, ​they don’t end up eating a ton.
.

Before we started going “free-for-all” with candy, this was what happened…

  • Me: You can ONLY have two pieces
  • Kids: Not fair.  Please can I have one more (they would beg and beg)
  • Mom: Ok honey, you can have one more.
  • Kids:  Ugh. I’m still hungry. Can I have another one? Pleeeeeeease.
  • Mom:  No I’m sorry.  That’s too much candy.
  • Kids:  [Insert 10 minutes of tears and tantrums here].
  • Mom:  Fine!  But no more candy.

​​​In the end, they ended up having a bunch of candy anyways!  So now I just let them enjoy until it’s time for bedtime reading, without saying NO a million times. Saves the drama, tears, and makes them less obsessed.

Picky Eating solutions

#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!  I also ditch the candies I don’t love (i.e hard ones that are easy to choke on, tootsie rolls and caramel chews which are terrible for teeth). But given that there’s no trick or treating I don’t have to worry about that this year. 

This week I found a pumpkin full of candy from last year in that same cupboard.  Had it been within arms reach I can assure you it would be empty.

#4 – OFFER CANDY WHEN NOT EXPECTED. 

I then give the girls one candy in their lunch box every day for the next week.  or when they get home from school it serves as part of their after-school snack.  Here’s the key.  I offer it before they ask me.  They realize they don’t need to beg, or sneak candy, because mommy is happily doling it out without their request.  That takes the forbidden factor out of the treats.  And then I might offer another piece with dinner periodically.   

#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.  ​​

Alll this work is paying off.

Here’s what happens now when my girls are in the presence of sweets. 

They take the tiniest bites.  They ration their stash so it lasts longer.  And get this….they will even take a bite out of a chocolate, wrap it back up and ask to save it for tomorrow.  They are learning how to manage their intake already. 

Remember this…

IT’S ONLY ONE NIGHT.  

​​My girls went to school with hard boiled eggs, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes cucumber and hummus today. So that candy isn’t going to hurt them.  And in the grand scheme of things, it’s just one day of indulgence.  Or just a few days.  That’s why I had to share my tips for managing Halloween candy.  They are working and I know they will for you too. 

WHAT ABOUT THE SWITCH WITCH?

​​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. 

A ‘better’ way is to give your child the choice – whether they would like to trade it for a trip to the movies, book, etc or keep the candy (although some experts would still frown upon this).
.

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.

​Our effort to see our kids eat less candy can have the opposite effect (i.e. they try to get as much as possible when they get the chance, because it’s restricted at home).  Hence, forbidding or restricting Halloween treats can give them WAY more power than they deserve.
These perspectives gave me the push to change my approach with Halloween. 
I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to set good habits now for my girls, so they can grow up with healthy mindset around all foods – be it kale or a Kit Kat bar. 
I’d love to know what you think about these tips for managing Halloween candy. Please share below!