Helping Parents to Navigate Halloween Candy
Halloween is probably every kid’s favorite holiday. The dressing up in fun or scary costumes, deciding which jokes to tell, the smell of candy and excitement in the air. It’s a night of fun, laughter, screaming and lots of sugar.
It is the sugar overload of this electric night that sends some parents into dread and worry. Many parents feel very conflicted on how to handle their kid’s permission and allowance with this huge stash of candy. Some subscribe to the candy fairy or switch witch approach. The kids are allowed a couple pieces of candy Halloween night, and then that night, when the kids are in bed, the candy is switched out for a toy. It makes me sad for these kids just thinking about this happening. The happiness that is being stolen from these kids.
What I have learned as a dietitian and a parent, is that the more you control food, especially sweets, the worse the relationship with that food you create. Dietitian and family therapist, Ellyn Satter, author of “Child of Mine,” states, “When you have a treat-deprived child, the child will beg, whine and sneak these foods. Children who have regular assess to sweets and forbidden foods, eat them moderately.” Research has shown that when you deprive children of any food, whether it be candy or fruit, they will overeat on it when it is available. This shows the adverse effects of restricting a child with any type of food. When there is restriction, the child will not be connected into their fullness signals and will overeat, creating an all or nothing relationship with food. If you are interested in reading more on the importance of permission, check out my article, Healthy Kids: Helping Your Child’s Permission With Food.
Satter has a wonderful philosophy with Halloween that I have implemented with my kids and share with many of my clients. Halloween is such a great learning opportunity for both the parent and child. The night of Halloween let your child have as much candy as they want and do the same the next day. I always tell my kids, they can have as much as they want, but to check in with how their tummy is feeling. Of course, we have had Halloweens where this did not happen, but it is such a great lesson for them to be aware of how they feel when they have had too much candy. The key is not to shame them if this happens. The likelihood that it will happen is pretty big, they are kids. But the more that candy isn’t a big deal and they have the permission with it, the chances of it happening the repeatedly, is much less.
The days after, you can set some ground rules. They can stay in control of their stash as long as they follow the rules. They can have a couple pieces after meals and as much as they want for snack. It’s always a good idea to offer something with protein and fat, such as milk or nuts with snacks to help level out blood sugars. This is why after a meal is a great time to offer candy because the protein and fat from the meal will help to slow down the blood sugar spike. If they can manage their candy in this way, they can keep it, otherwise you do until they can.
Remember that permission is key. You are teaching them that they can listen to their body and have candy in a moderate way. You are helping to create and foster a healthy relationship with food, especially the foods the come along with these holidays. So allow them to enjoy it. You might even find something a little sweet in that yourself.