By: Jen Orleow, MS, CN
Halloween can be a stressful time for parents between finding the perfect costume, classroom parties, decorating and worrying about all that candy that your little ghost or goblin will gobble up once trick-or-treat rolls around. As a nutritionist, I’m often asked what the best strategies are for managing the sugar highs and lows that come along with this sweet holiday. Afterall, Halloween is one of the true joys of childhood and kids should be able to participate in a way that enables them to feel like they are part of their community, while building lasting memories that they take with them into adulthood. Here are some strategies to help keep your sanity while also using this holiday as a time to teach your child about building healthy relationships with food.
Don’t trick-or-treat on empty!
Before heading out to trick-or-treat, offer a hearty meal or snack with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. A chili or a soup is a great idea and something that can be easily prepped and prepared the night before or during the day in a crockpot. Ensuring that your child won’t be loading up on candy on an empty stomach is one way to keep them from overeating sweets and experiencing a serious spike in blood sugar.
Bring a smaller bucket.
If you want to control the amount of candy your child eats, one strategy is to limit how much they can collect. Choosing a smaller bucket or container ensures that they can’t get more candy than you feel comfortable with.
Set a time limit.
Another strategy is to set a timer and limit the amount of time they are out knocking door-to-door. This way they get to participate but you are still able to limit the amount of loot they bring home.
Establish clear boundaries.
Plan your strategy for how you want to handle Halloween candy before the big day and establish clear rules with your child. Renowned Dietician Ellyn Satter says that children who are exposed to candy and treat foods as a normal part of their diet are less likely to overdo it on sweets than those who are raised to view sugar as taboo.
Perhaps you allow your child to eat unlimited amounts the first night, and then store the candy out of sight and let them have a few pieces each day as part of their lunch or snack. Or you can predetermine how many pieces they are allowed to have the first night based on their age. For example, 3 pieces for a 3-year-old. or 4 pieces for a 4-year-old. Set the rest aside to be packed with lunch or as an after-dinner dessert. Another idea is to have your child sort their candy into two piles, one to keep and one to give away. Whatever strategy you choose, treating candy and sugar the same as other foods teaches your child to regulate their intake and removes some of the allure of candy if they otherwise perceive it as “off limits”.
While it can be hard as a parent to see your child eating foods you may not normally like them to have, remember that it’s only one day and that one day of excess is unlikely to ruin their long-term health. If they do happen to overdo it, use it as an opportunity to teach them about eating mindfully and hopefully that lesson will carry over the next time trick-or-treat rolls around. Instead of hyper focusing on candy, remind kids of other aspects of this holiday that make it fun and memorable, such as gathering with friends, dressing up, getting out in the neighborhood and enjoying the festivities. This way, Halloween will be an enjoyable experience for adults and kids alike.
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5350 Tallman Ave NW, Suite #510
Seattle, WA 98107