Halloween is coming up soon, and with it comes the stress of trying to manage our little ones’ mountains of candy. Let’s start things off with a quick true or false, or, in the spirit of Halloween, trick or treat.
It may come as a complete surprise, but the answer is treat (a.k.a. true)! Let’s unpack this before your brain turns into monster mush.
THE SPOOKY SCIENCE
Kids are incredible little beings born with the ability to self-regulate their intake. This means that when they have regular exposure to sweet treats, they eat these foods in moderation. In contrast, when children with restricted access finally have candy, they consume it in excess since they don’t know when they will get it again. In essence, they gorge on it even if they are not hungry or enjoying it. Control tactics can also lead to other unhealthy relationships with food such as sneaking treats or feelings of guilt. Letting kids have control over their Halloween haul helps to teach them self-control and moderation.
When candy is restricted, children will consume it in excess But it’s not all up to them; parents play an important role in leading their children to have successful eating experiences. Following the principles of the Division of Responsibility, parents are responsible for what is eaten, when, and where, while children are in charge of whether to eat and how much. Let’s see how this can be applied on Halloween night. MANAGING THE HAUL
The first step towards having a successful Halloween is to have a balanced meal before going out. This will ensure our costumed kids are well-fuelled for the duration of this most exciting night and prevent excess candy consumption stemming from hunger. Once home, make sure to celebrate their spoils; ask them what they’re most excited about eating and have a piece yourself to normalize candy eating. After that, the kids are in charge of their Halloween haul as long as they adhere to the boundaries you set out in relation to the Division of Responsibility. Set a specific time and location for candy consumption to take place, such as after dinner at the table. Keep distractions like screens or toys to a minimum to avoid mindless overconsumption.
Overall, it’s important to look at the big picture: Halloween is a once a year event! Don’t stress about their sugar consumption on one or two days; it’s more important that your child’s overall eating habit is balanced and nutritious. So, let them indulge and trust that they are able to moderate their candy intake. By doing so, you’re setting them up to listen to their bodies and have a healthy relationship with food into adulthood. Of course, there’s the possibility that your child will overindulge resulting in a stomach ache. Mistakes are excellent learning opportunities. Be sure to not shame or ridicule them; instead, ask them how they are feeling and if they would do anything differently next time.
If you’re looking for other ways to mitigate excess candy consumption on Halloween, check out these tips:
Offer candy alongside milk, fruit, cheese, or other nutritious foods to create a more balanced eating experience.
Have a trash can nearby and let your kids know that they don’t need to eat anything they don’t like. Often, they are only interested in having a taste, not the whole candy.
Implement the “Switch Witch” where children can decide to trade in some of their candy for a book, toy, game, or money. Be sure to let them enjoy their haul first! Ask them to create two piles for the sweets they’re really excited about eating and those less exciting. This helps to teach them to eat what they enjoy, rather than just because it’s there.
Make the day about more than candy by engaging in other Halloween-related activities such as carving pumpkins, making your own costumes, or decorating your home.
To learn more about how to raise a healthy eater, book a nutrition consultation with me today!