Ask any kid in America, it’s likely that one of their favorite things about Halloween are the costumes. Oh wait, did we say costumes? We meant candy. Their favorite thing about Halloween is most definitely the candy. As a parent, it’s normal to feel a little anxious about watching your kid unwrap piece after piece of the typically demonized “processed sugar”, but the truth is, you don’t have too much to worry about! In fact, the less you worry, the more likely your kids will view candy as “no big deal”. We’ve polled some of our most trustworthy registered dietitian partners to hear what they do with their kid’s Halloween candy.
Let Them Enjoy It!
Registered Dietitian and Eating Disorder Specialist Julie Duffy Dillon recommends we teach our kids to feel relaxed around food, and that it’s ok to enjoy food as part of a holiday experience. “The night we get home they eat as many pieces as they want, and the same goes for the next day. Two days after halloween the candy is a choice, and they can have as many pieces as they want, but only at our planned snack times.”
Now if you’re picturing your children eating candy, and nothing but candy for the rest of their lives with this approach, you can rest easy knowing that allowing your children to make their own decisions around food is a healthy practice. Registered Dietitian Emily Fonnesbeck notes, “Restriction actually causes chaos, rather than being a solution for it. When kids know they can have what they want, within the boundaries of meal and snack times where wholesome foods are available, it’s more likely they will be able to make a decision which is in their best interest rather than out of fear, deprivation or restriction – just like any adult.”
Offer a Variety of Foods.
Registered Dietitian Paige Smathers emphasizes the importance of offering a variety of foods on a daily basis. “Parents have the best chance for success on Halloween by setting the stage during every other time of year. Offering a wide variety of foods and staying positive about food messaging sets kids up for being excited about Halloween candy, but not frantically acting like it’s the last candy they’ll ever have.” Smathers also makes it a practice to offer candy with lunch or dinner in the days following Halloween, and only when her kids ask for it!
Don’t Worry about “Saving Room” for Candy
While enjoyment and satisfaction is the name of the game on Halloween, it’s important to keep the rest of the day’s food ‘business as usual’. Skipping meals or snacks to “save room” for candy is definitely not recommended, and extreme hunger can cause even more anxiety around food, especially satisfying foods like chocolate bars! You can keep up the festivity by offering a delicious dinner of “worms and eyeballs” (spaghetti and meatballs) to fuel-up for a night of trick-or-treating.
Leave Out the Negotiations
In the name of “balance” it might be tempting to tell your child they can eat some candy “if they eat vegetables first” or “if they clean their room”. According to Registered Dietitian Crystal Karges, “negotiations don’t allow children to listen to and honor their food choices… leaving out the negotiations helps make candy more neutral and less forbidden.”
Take a “No Big Deal” Approach
When we asked Registered Dietitian Fiona Sutherland about her approach to Halloween candy, we didn’t realize that being from Australia, Halloween is “no big deal” to her and her kids. “Sometimes the kids go to some neighbors houses and get some candy, if they remember. One of my kids eats it all at once, and the other just has a few pieces. Halloween isn’t a huge holiday here, so my kids just don’t see it as a big deal.”
Ultimately, the more relaxed you as a parent can be around Halloween candy, the more relaxed your children will be around candy. If this is a new concept for you, that’s ok! It’s never too late to help your kids have a more positive relationship with food. If you’d like to learn more about how to help your kids in this arena, we recommend reading Ellyn Satter’s book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!