Goblins and Ninjas and CANDY!
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Even though my kids are grown, I still decorate the house and yard. I am also the Halloween costume maker for my grandkids.
The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend almost $83 celebrating Halloween this year, and some of the money will be spent on CANDY!
Parents have agonized and debated for years about whether or not to give away candy on Halloween and how much candy they should allow their children to have. Some parents have a “no candy” rule, some ration the candy, and some parents rationalize a candy free-for-all since it’s only once a year.
Some dentists will buy your child’s candy or exchange it for a prize. There is even a Halloween Switch Witch – your child leaves the bag of trick or treat candy under the bed and the Switch Witch takes it in the night and leaves a toy in its place.
Sugar, Food and Behavior
The sugar in candy is blamed for causing lack of focus and out-of-control behavior in some kids. Some children may be more sugar sensitive than others, and for some, the excitement of the occasion itself may contribute to this behavior. Regardless of how your child reacts, the American Dietetic Association says limiting kids’ intake of sugar is certainly a good idea. But a bigger issue than sugar highs may be the fact that excess sugar kills kids’ appetites for healthier foods that their growing bodies need.
On the behavioral side, some research suggests that when you completely forbid your child to have candy, they may develop a “deprived mentality” that causes them to crave candy later on, when they are in control of their own food intake. Sheltering kids from sweets and treats doesn’t teach them how to manage these temptations later in life.
Whatever you as a parent decide, here are a few tips for managing the candy monster as well as some fun alternatives to candy on Halloween.
Teaching Good Lessons at Halloween
Teach kids to avoid “mindless eating”. This means you are eating while distracted so you don’t pay attention to what or how much you eat. Kids who eat while watching television or while using electronic screens are examples of this behavior. Have kids enjoy their Halloween candy at the table while you have a conversation. Here are some other strong guidelines that can help:
- Keep candy out of kids’ bedrooms and limit candy before bedtime.
- If you are going to allow candy, offer it after a meal or with a healthy snack. The protein and fat in the food may slow down the sugar rush.
- Adults need to practice the same healthy food habits they want their children to have as adults. If the kids see you help yourself to six snack size candy bars, it’s hard for them to buy into the moderation lesson.
When Trick-or-Treating is Done
Once the fun of the night out in costume is completed, there are additional steps to take.
Most of the time, parents should keep the candy out of sight, out of mind. Instead of putting that giant bowl of Halloween candy on the kitchen table where it is a temptation to everyone, bag it up and put in a cupboard.
Have the kids sort their candy (a good learning game!), then pick out their five favorite kinds to keep. This teaches “mindful eating”—making choices, limiting serving sizes, and savoring and enjoying your choices rather than gorging on as much as you are allowed.
If you are going to limit the candy, set the rules and make sure your kids understand and agree. If they can follow the rules, let them control the candy stash. If they can’t, parents will need to be in charge.
Decide how much candy is an acceptable amount for a day. Measure it on a kitchen food scale (a math lesson!). Put the daily amounts in sealed bags with the day or date written on them.
Establishing a No-Candy Household
If your decision is to have a candy-free household during Halloween, there are lots of non-candy items that can be given to trick or treaters. Here are a few ideas:
- Mini Clementine oranges with jack-o-lantern faces drawn on them
- Individual low-fat cheese sticks, granola bars, or individual bags of snack crackers or pretzels with a Halloween sticker that you attach
- Temporary tattoos
- Hot chocolate packets
- Glow necklaces and bracelets
- Plastic vampire teeth or spider rings
- Glider airplanes
Even though kids may say that candy is the best part of Halloween, what they will really enjoy and remember is the fun experiences they had and the family traditions that were created – picking out that great costume, carving a pumpkin, trick or treating in the dark, making Halloween cookies, or turning out the lights and reading a scary story with mom and dad.