MEGAN HADLEY

How this Dietitian Handles Halloween Candy

MEGAN HADLEY
How this Dietitian Handles Halloween Candy

Chances are good that by the end of the night your little ones will be bounding home with bags bursting full of sweet treats. For some of you, it’s feeling like no big deal. And for others of you, instead of a bag of candy, you see a bag full of anxiety and arguments over how much and when to eat it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let me tell you how I handle my kids and their candy loot. 

One quick search on the internet and you’ll find ways to trick your little one into passing on the candy with help from the Switch Witch. If you aren’t familiar with the Switch Witch, she replaces your child’s candy with a shiny new toy while they sleep. Sounds fool proof, right? Not so much, as registered dietitian Julie Duffy Dillon explains here. (http://www.juliedillonrd.com/halloween/).

While sending the candy away certainly decreases mom and dad’s anxiety about managing candy and their kids, it doesn’t teach our kids to be around a lot of candy and learn how to manage it themselves…like they might need to do every Halloween of their adult life. (I say this while I am sitting next to two huge Costco–sized bags of candy that my hubby just picked up for Halloween, three weeks ago.)

Candy is fun. Well, I think candy is fun, and my kids think candy is fun. So it makes sense that my kiddos would think it was fun going door-to-door dressed up soliciting free candy. So I let them have fun and I let them learn.

I think child feeding expert dietitian Ellyn Satter knows what’s up when it comes to child feeding and I follow what she has to say about Halloween as well (https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/family-meals-focus/30-halloween-candy/).

So, when my daughters (2 years and 6 years) come home I let them plop down and dump all of their candy out and after I give it a good check for age appropriateness (think gum and choking hazards for my youngest), then they will decide what and how much they eat that Halloween night.

The next day we continue with the fun. We have candy at meals and snacks, and we even get really crazy and have some with breakfast. Now if you just stopped breathing, please note that I said with breakfast, not for breakfast.

The next couple of days after Halloween, the afternoon snack always includes my kids’ Halloween candy, and again, they decide how much. After a few days, we treat the leftover candy as any other dessert and have it when our family would usually eat dessert. So one or two pieces of candy becomes a dessert option with meals.

What we know is that when children have regular access to sweets, they are far more inclined to eat them moderately. Children with very limited access to sweets are far more likely to overeat on sweets. When we approach Halloween, or any holiday goodies really, with permission to eat to their heart’s delight, we support them in developing a healthy relationship with food.

Any parent reading this now who has had the experience of buying a big bag of Halloween candy a few days (or more) before Halloween and had to go buy more before October 31st because they finished the bag, knows that not having regular access to sweets makes you more inclined to overeat them. (http://www.bodybloved.com/home/halloween-candy-trick-or-treat).

And, it is important to remember, that your child eating more candy than usual for three or four days, is not going to significantly impact their nutritional health in the long run. Plus, it can go a long way to developing positive feeding practices. (https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding/)

So this Halloween, if you are usually more inclined to go with tricks than treats when it comes to your kid’s candy, consider fewer tricks and see if everyone has a little more fun. Rest in knowing that your children are learning to develop a lifelong stress-free relationship with candy.

Megan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Megan specializes in non-diet, heath at every size nutrition therapy for women and nutrition therapy for the treatment of eating disorders. She believes that difficult relationships with food and body image are barriers to women living life fully the way that Christ wants for us and she loves helping women find freedom in eating and acceptance of their bodies so that they can turn more attention towards living.