Candies everywhere! Candies for everyone!
How do you deal with the abundance of candies your kids collect at Halloween?
Do you restrict them?
Do you hope your kids will control themselves?
Do you hide the candy?
Do you eat them yourself in secret…?
For kids older than 4 years old, they can typically manage their stash themselves.
Younger kids will require more structure and guidance (or rules), and a greater attention to candies that can be a choking hazard.
Halloween (and eating all the candies) should be fun and stress-free!
Can I just avoid having to deal with all of this candy?
We get it. Candies are non-essential food in anyone’s diet because they are of poor nutritional value. Likely everyone knows this. BUT they are delicious, tasty, and fun to eat. They are part of the Halloween tradition, and eating treats and enjoying social event that involves food is part of life.
As a parent, as health-conscious as you can be, you have to teach your kids how to behave and how to eat in a context of food abundance.
Is avoiding it all together the solution? No.
Is demonizing candy the solution? No.
Is shaming people who eat candy the solution? No.
Is lecturing them that candies are unhealthy and not good for their health the solution? No.
If we make candies forbidden and try to control everything surrounding them, we send the signal that we don’t trust our kids to deal with this situation. That we don’t trust their judgment to make good decisions for themselves. AND we make the candies even more desirable!
Rather, we suggest that you guide your children as they learn how to deal with so many treats. It’s a balance between raising healthy eaters without totally killing the fun that food brings in certain occasions like Halloween.
No, candies are not healthy. But we eat for more than simply ingesting nutrients.
Include the kids in the discussion about candy
Get a feel for what you kids are looking for at Halloween.
What are your kids excited about?
Is it to dress up and choose their costume?
Is it to go to houses and see the scary outdoor decorations?
Is it the candies themselves (aka eating the candies?)
Is it to stay up late?
Is it to sort out the candies they collected?
You’ll get a better sense of what they value and what they look forward. Maybe it will surprise you!
Then, how do they want to deal with their loot?
Do they want to put back candies they don’t like in the trick-or-treat bowl you have at home?
Do they want to exchange some/all candies against a toy or activity of their choice?
Do they want to eat them all during the following week?
Do they want to hoard the candies and make them last until the next Halloween?
Do they want to exchange some with their siblings/friends?
Get a feel for what your kids are excited about during Halloween? The candies, dressing up or staying up later than usual?
Agree on a game plan before heading out to trick or treat
What costume will they wear?
With who will they trick or treat?
Half of the fun is likely in building the excitement leading to the Halloween night!
Discussing the following with your kids (and with your family) before hand can ensure everyone is on the same page.
Will you have a regular meal at home before heading out to trick-or-treat?
Will you walk or drive?
Which neighbourhood are you visiting?
How many houses (or streets?) will you visit or for how long will you trick-or-treat?
Which bucket will the kids use to trick-or-treat?
Will you eat candies as you trick-or-treat or wait until you are back?
Will you only trick-or-treat, hand out candies at home, or both?
Will the kids trade candies amongst themselves?
Will the parents interfere with the management of the stash of candies!? if so, how?
It is easier to enforce a plan once it has been discussed and agreed on before heading out. It’s not about killing the fun, but giving some directions and limits to kids so they know what is expected of them.
Agreeing on a game plan before heading out can minimize arguments and negotiations!
Safety first! Candies are choking hazards.
For kids under 4 years old, candies can be choking hazards. Avoid hard, round, sticky and chewy candies. If your kids or kids’ friends have food allergies, it might be a food idea to review what needs to be avoided.
For all kids, inspect all candies before your kids jump in and start eating them.
home made candies unless you know where they come from
unusual appearance including pierced, altered or weird wrappers
Inspect the candies your kids have collected, and for younger kids avoid hard, round and sticky candies as they can be a choking hazard.
Rethink your talk about candies
It’s a good time to assess how you personally feel about candies, treats, junk food, and all unhealthy food.
Do you fear such food?
Do you tend to demonize them?
Are you afraid they will make you (and your kids) gain weight?
Do you feel guilty when you eat them?
It’s a good time to assess how you talk about these in front of your kids. (They always watch and always listen.)
It’s worth discussing as parents how you align on that topic and what each of you value.
There is value in explaining to your kids why we don’t eat the full bag of candies when we arrive home.
How will you explain that exactly? The wording matters.
It might be a good moment to have a conversation about food and how you nourish your body.
Here are some pointers:
all foods have their place in our diet, but some are really tasty but not very nutritious
most of the meals, most of the time, and most days we aim for a balance
no foods are banned
too much of anything is not good (yup, even broccoli)
no single food (candies) will make it or break it
food is fun
How your family deals with Halloween candies is ultimately your decision and might not be how the family next door deal with it.
How you feel and deal with candy influences how your kids perceive candy.
Once they’ve got the candies, follow the plan
Whatever the plan you’ve agreed on, you need to keep your word and follow it.
So, if you had agreed that your kids could eat AS MANY candies as they wanted that night, refrain from commenting. Refrain from intervening. They know the rules and they are following them!
There is also some value for your kids in “experimenting” with their food intake. What does actually happen if I eat 10-15-20-25-30 pieces of candy. Do I feel sick? We have all done it and learned our lesson. Overeating doesn’t feel right, and it is important for kids learning to eat to experience, recognize and acknowledge these body sensations. (And there is no benefit in saying “I told you so”)
Following the plan is primordial and letting your kids maybe eat too much candy is part of their learning!
Put the candies aside, but don’t hide them
Hiding, restricting or over-controlling the candy stash just make these candies even more tempting.
Sure, putting them aside can prevent mindless eating. Perhaps they each have their container in the kitchen pantry. It is there, they know it is there, it’s not hidden. But it is not the first thing they see either when they arrive from school.
Putting them aside but letting the kids eat them when they want and as much as they want (or according to the plan you’ve agree on) is likely to take away the novelty after a couple of weeks. It normalize the candies.
Hiding the candies will only create more cravings!
What about a “eat as much candy as you can” night?
We are not a fan of the “eat as much as you can now” because tomorrow the stash is gone (because parents take it away).
Why? The “binge than restrict” attitude is too common in today’s diet world, and too deleterious to be encouraged at a young age.
It doesn’t promote your kids to eat because they want, but rather because they fear.
It doesn’t let them manage their food intake as they wish either.
Letting your kids manage their stash of candies and deciding on their food intake encourages an important food competence.
Be a role model around candies
Kids look up at you for your behaviour around candies (just like all other foods).
How you decide which one you eat, how many candies you eat, how you act around the stash, what you say when you have eaten (too many?) candies…
It is not to make you self conscious but rather to remind you that THIS counts more than the hard rules you might be tempted to enforce.
How you act around candy is more impactful than the rules you might try to enforce with your kids.
Don’t steal your kids candy
Stealing is bad.
Jokes aside, yes it’s tempting because well, candies are delicious and it would reduce the amount your kids consume – win-win? But if you don’t want your kids to “fear” the disappearance of their stash, which would only lead to them binge-eating the said candies or hiding/hoarding them from their parents, just let them manage their stash. It also send the message that you trust them with it (and that they can trust you).
Eating your kids’ candies in secret shows them that you don’t trust them to manage their loot (and that they cannot trust you either!).
Avoid using candies to manipulate your kids
Don’t reward your kids with candies.
Don’t allow them to eat candies for dessert only if they finish their meals.
Don’t punish your kids for bad behaviours by throwing the stash away.
Food is neutral. Candies are neutral. They shouldn’t be use to reward or punish.
All foods are neutral. Don’t use candies to get your kids to adopt a certain behaviour.
If you wish, some strategies to manage the candy stash
Switch witch: they leave by their bed either their full stash of a portion of it, and in the middle of the night, the switch witch comes and exchanges it for something else. Might works with younger kids only!
Buying back candies from your kids: either in money or in exchange of an activity they have been dreaming of. That teach them that choose what they eat in life. Being truly mindful, would you eat these candies or would you choose something else (that might not be in your Halloween stash)?
Having your kids pay a tax on their candies: for X candies they keep, they have to give away Y, or give you Z (if you’d like to eat some!). A hard truth on how society truly works!
Saving some as decorations for the Christmas gingerbread house. Freeze them for Christmas.
Throwing it in the trash: sadly, this is called food waste. But if you don’t think it is good enough for your own kids, who is it good enough for then? No one. So discard. It is tempting to bring it to the office, or donate it to some charity, but is that really what people in need deserve? A middle ground could be to donate them as part of a more balanced grocery order. It is for you to decide depending on how you see the situation.
How you manage your kids’ candies stash is ultimately up to you and your family, based on your values. No one should judge your approach.
In the end, what is one day compared to 364?
Ultimately, how each kid (and adult!) deals with his/her candies is unique. It depends on taste preference, personality, and how she/he likes to eat. Is there a right or wrong way of doing it? Likely not…
An remember: relax. Enjoy. Let go.
Halloween lasts one day.
Put your energy on the rest of the year. The foundation of your kids’ health is built every time they sit at your dinner table. You have plenty of opportunity to cook and serve healthy meals!
In the end, Halloween lasts one day. It won’t make or break your efforts to be healthy all year round!
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Scaglioni S, Arrizza C, Vecchi F, Tedeschi S. Determinants of children’s eating behavior. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(Suppl):S2006-2011.