For health-conscious parents, Halloween can be tricky. Do you set limits? Do you let kids decide how much to eat?
There isn’t just one right answer.
Instead, use your best judgment based on your child’s personality and eating habits. Kids who generally eat just a couple of pieces and save the rest might be trusted to decide how much to eat. But if your child tends to overdo it, consider setting limits.
“Knowing that parents are often their little ones’ role models, keep in mind that if you can’t set candy limits, then it will be harder for your child to as well,” said Andrea Branton, RD, LDN, CSP, a pediatric dietitian.
Here are some more tips for handling the Halloween treats:
- Before kids go trick-or-treating, try to serve a healthy meal so they’re not hungry when the candy starts coming in.
- Know how much candy your child has collected and don’t store it in his or her bedroom. Having it so handy can be an irresistible temptation for many kids.
- Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Candy and snacks shouldn’t get in the way of kids eating healthy meals.
- After trick-or-treating, have your child go through their candy and pick out their favorites first, then, give away what is left. This allows them to have what they enjoy without having leftover candy laying around for days (or even weeks).
- If a child is overweight — or you’d just like to reduce the Halloween stash — consider buying back some or all of the remaining Halloween candy. This acknowledges the candy belongs to the child and provides a treat in the form of a little spending money.
- Be a role model by eating Halloween candy in moderation yourself. To help avoid temptation, buy your Halloween candy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.
- Encourage your kids to be mindful of the amount of candy and snacks eaten — and to stop before they feel full or sick.
You also can offer some alternatives to candy to the trick-or-treaters who come to your door. Here are some treats you might give out:
- non-food treats, like stickers, toys, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, like tiny decks of cards (party-supply stores can be great sources for these)
- snacks such as small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum, trail mix, small boxes of raisins and popcorn
- sugar-free candy
- small boxes of cereal
Steer clear of any snacks or toys — like small plastic objects — that could pose choking hazards to very young children.
And remember that Halloween, like other holidays, is a single day on the calendar. If your family eats sensibly during the rest of the year, it will have a more lasting impact than a few days of overindulgence.
Andrea Branton, RD, LDN, CSP, is pediatric dietitian for Mission Children’s Hospital.