Child holds halloween jack-o-lantern full of candy

Family Health

How To Manage Halloween Treats for Candy-Obsessed Kids

Oct 15, 2018

If your kids are like most, they’re counting the days and vibrating with energy over the sudden influx of their favourite Halloween treats. People are going to GIVE me candy!? Score!

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But this is also the holiday that many parents (and teachers) agonize over. These days us parents are more aware of the consequences of excess sugar intake, and the fact that childhood obesity is on the rise. So, what’s a parent to do? I’ve got you covered.

Here are my top five strategies for managing Halloween treats:

  1. Fuel Up. Before you head out for trick-or-treating, make sure you offer the kids a healthy and balanced dinner complete with protein and fibre-rich foods such as meat and alternatives, whole grains and veggies/fruit. A nutritious and balanced meal will help keep their tummies feeling fuller for longer, meaning they are not ravenous post trick-or-treating and will hopefully not devour all of their treats immediately! I’m a fan of one-pot meals on Halloween — it's easy to prep and clean up on an already hectic night.
  2. Play With It. I have found memories of dumping out my treats and reveling in my hard work. I would stack candy, organize by type, build chocolate bar castles, and try to bargain with my brothers, trading my least favourites for my most favourites. Ask your kids to do the same. They worked hard for all their treats, but not all treats will be their favourites. I’m talking to you Halloween caramels with your impossible wrappers!
    Let them know that they can “trade in” their sweets. Is there a toy they’ve been eyeing, an outing they’ve been wanting to go on, or a different homemade dessert they would prefer? This is a great learning opportunity — just because a treat is there doesn’t mean they have to eat it. It’s the “see food, eat food” mentality. By allowing them the chance to get rid of candy for something more appealing is the same thing I recommend to adults. Choose the treat that is your favourite and ditch the mediocre ones.
  3. Teach by Being a Positive Example. Let’s get real. Did you buy the big box of Halloween candy when it first arrived at the grocery store, and then had to buy another box closer to Halloween because the first box disappeared? We’ve all been there. But it’s important to try and lead by example. Let your kids see you consuming your favourite treats in moderation! Try having a Halloween treat as a snack but offer with fruit and yogurt. When kids see you enjoying the occasional treat it shows them that this is normal — not bingeing on Halloween night. The goal is for kids see treats as “normal” which means they are allowed occasionally and are unrelated to performance or behaviour. It is also important to keep the language neutral. Refrain from saying that candy is junk or that it’s not allowed. We want our kids to develop a positive relationship with food, not to feel that some food is forbidden or bad.
  4. Let Them Be Responsible. Part of the enjoyment of Halloween (beside the loads of free candy) is the sheer enjoyment of being in control of your own treats. Your kids worked hard to earn their candy, let them manage it! This means negotiating with your kids to determine how much should be eaten per day, and when it’s served. I don’t mean to allow them a free-for-all, but simply let them choose when they would like to consume their treats — with a snack, after dinner, or even with a meal! Giving your kids the opportunity to manage their own stash takes away some of the power of the candy and gives them the confidence to manage their treats in a healthy way.
  5. Let Them Learn. If any of your kids are heading out as Spiderman this year you may be familiar with the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility.” Kids are bound to make mistakes. And as a parent it is hard to watch them eating enough sweets to make an adult sick, but this is how they learn. When your child feels unwell simply chat to them about why. Explain that when we over consume it can lead to a tummy ache. Kids will quickly learn that too much candy is not fun. And hopefully instead of feeling embarrassed, they will learn from their mistakes and think twice before doing it again.

Instead of dreading Halloween this year, because it turns your kids into candy-obsessed kids, think of it as a learning opportunity. Talk to your kids about moderation, balancing and healthy indulgences!

Article Author Sarah Remmer
Sarah Remmer

Read and watch more from Sarah here.

Sarah Remmer, RD, is a pediatric registered dietitian and owner of Sarah Remmer Nutrition Consulting, a nutrition consulting and communications company based in Calgary, Alberta. Her website and blog contain practical tips and advice for parents and families on feeding and nutrition (everything from pre-natal nutrition to teens), as well as nutritious and easy recipes and videos. Follow Sarah on Facebook for free advice, tips and family-friendly recipes!

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