Every year during the Halloween holiday you’ll read blogs and news columns about how to avoid eating candy. The advice can range from offering organic raisins or toothbrushes in place of candy treats, to leaving your sack of candy on the front porch where it will magically be exchanged for something else (a new doll, 50 bucks, an iPhone, or some other ridiculous thing).
I understand that folks are well-meaning when they try to moderate their child’s treat bag, but they may be doing more harm than good. Perhaps your child doesn’t like candy, so they’d rather “trade it in” for something else. Other children however get wind of these types of messages and are left confused, or worse, guilty. They may start labeling foods as “good” and “bad”.
With the growing trend of obesity among young children and teens, it’s easy to see why candy or soda or other “empty calorie” foods are targets. Unfortunately when you make a big deal out it, it becomes a bigger deal.
Do still consider safety and nutrition, and offer a plate of apple slices or some orange wedges for an afternoon snack, and do have a quick nutritious family meal to serve up before they go out Trick-or-Treating. It’s also okay to be aware of portions and calories.
Be aware, but don’t obsess.
My advice is simple: Allow small treats, with a “no big deal” attitude. Don’t use a holiday as a time to teach the lesson of moderation – that can be done all year through by modeling healthy habits. And healthy habits include allowing yourself a treat while balancing out your week.
If you place a big bowl of candy out on Halloween and your child grabs a couple on the way out the door, don’t comment. Or when he or she arrive home after trick or treating, and dumps out the “loot”, don’t comment. And if you do comment, make it positive: “Wow, you must have had fun going door to door” or “The party was a success!” or “that’s enough candy to last you for months!”
Try this experiment
- Be nonchalant about all of the junk and the treats, and see how your children react.
- If you’ve never done this before, your child may very well eat twelve or more pieces of candy all at once.
- Don’t say anything. They may not feel so good afterward. They may realize that you aren’t regulating them, and they will have to regulate themselves next time.
- They may realize that they enjoy candy, but after a day or two, a one or two small pieces is enough.
Self-Regulating our food intake, especially of rich, calorically dense foods, is part of healthy eating and lifelong weight management. Let’s face it, many of us all have favorite foods that we could overeat. Learning when to stop is a life-long skill that will serve your child well.
A few days after Halloween, let me know how your experiment turns out!