Do you have a heck of a time managing your child’s obsession with all sugary things – especially Halloween treats? Could you use some strategies to help you with how to manage Halloween candy? You’re in the right place! That’s exactly why I wrote this post.
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.
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 love. 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. So restriction can fuel picky eating. You can learn more about how to raise healthy eaters in my free training.
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 Unicorn ever (according to her mom), we embrace Halloween for what it is.
Before I dive in and reveal my approach, know that I place no judgment 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 for your family.
So without further adieu, here are…
5 tricks for how to manage Halloween candy
#1 – LET THEM GO TO TOWN.
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.
#2 – TAKE THEM TO FEWER HOUSES.
Although the pandemic seems to be coming to an end, it’s never a bad idea to limit the number of houses you visit. While part of the fun of Halloween night is knocking on your neighbours’ doors, it’s always good to remember that you never know who is sick. However, aside from the concerns about catching anything, there is another good reason to take them to fewer houses.
The fewer houses = the less candy! Your kids still get to enjoy the night and show off their costumes without making too many rounds.
#3 – OUT OF SIGHT. OUT OF MIND.
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). After a week or so they tend to forget about the candy, so 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 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 candy in their mouth without thought. In fact, I would give them an opportunity to explore their favourite Halloween treat with their senses, which makes that candy last much much longer (meaning they will feel more satiated and likely eat LESS candy). One of the absolute best ways to do that is with the Curious Cookie™ “Food Adventure” Mat. It takes them on a food journey, and step-by-step they get to use their senses to look, feel, smell, listen and take little bites of the food they are exploring. Check it out here!
It was amazing to see them ration their stash, and even take a bite out of chocolate and ask to save it for tomorrow. They are learning how to manage their intake already – because I had a way to manage Halloween candy.
BONUS TIP: REMOVE ASSOCIATION THAT HALLOWEEN = CANDY
One last tip for how to manage Halloween candy. I also try to teach my children that a Halloween treat doesn’t have to be sweet or sugar-laden. That’s why I tend to choose one of our favourite healthy snacks for Halloween. Good old SeaSnax. I know…you think I’m silly for doling out sea vegetables for Halloween. However, 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!) I was actually surprised to see and hear that children were pretty thrilled to see something different in their pumpkins and pillowcases. I actually heard one little boy yell “Mommy look! It’s SeaSnax!” as he walked away from the house. Phew!
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.
Since we are talking about how to handle Halloween candy, I should address the Switch Witch approach. 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 Halloween candy long-term. While I personally am supportive of “Switch Witch” for a portion of their candy, 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.
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. That’s where the Curious Cookie™ “Food Adventure” Mat works so beautifully as well. Because we are teaching kids to learn about all foods and explore them. Every new food they add to their preferred food list with the Curious Cookie™ “Food Adventure” Mat is a food you can build from. Even if it’s a new treat. Each foods lends a different texture, smell, appearance, and even requires different oral motor skills. So the more foods your child has the easier it is to expand their food list. And that’s exactly what the Curious Cookie Mat was designed to do!
FOOD SHOULDN’T HAVE POWER.
I realize I’m sharing extremes here, yet treats are likely not 100% forbidden in your home. So take any of these tips for how to manage Halloween candy and apply what works for you and your family.