Halloween 2020 is coming up in just a couple of weeks, and depending on how COVID is going in your area, that may mean trick-or-treating…which means candy… lots of candy! So, how do you handle the abundance of candy at your house? Do you give them a number of pieces that they’re allowed to pick, to eat out of their goodie bag? Or, do you have them wait until the next day to start eating any? Then what happens? Is it one candy per day in their lunch for school? What do you do with all those extras, are they ever allowed to eat all of it?
Okay, so I just bombarded you with a ton of questions – but Halloween can bring up a lot of frantic feelings for us parents because of the sheer amount of sweets our kids have access to so quickly and easily. It makes us nervous – no doubt. But here’s the thing, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I want to help you bring dessert down from the pedestal, and teach YOU that there’s no need to be scared of candy folks! It’s just another food, and has its place in your toddler’s diet, and yours, just like any other food.
So does that mean you allow your kids to eat their entire trick-or-treat bag full of candy on Halloween? Well, I’ve brought back an older post to answer that question, and you just might be surprised…
Originally published on 10/21/19
Halloween is a scary holiday for most of us parents. Not because of the ghouls and goblins, but because of…well …you know…the never-ending candy.
But, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to fear it! And no, I’m not going to tell you about “the switch witch” or selling candy or any other tactic to just remove the candy and pretend Halloween never happened.
If you’ve read my previous post on how to raise a toddler to have a healthy relationship with sugar, or taken the in-depth lesson on managing sugar and treats in my Feeding Toddlers online course, you may know that I believe that we need to teach our children how to manage sugar and desserts in a healthy way, versus avoiding or fearing it altogether. Of course, we don’t want it to take over our child’s diet, but without allowing it to show up in their lives, and having the right attitude about it, candy and sugary foods can quickly become an obsession that was created out of restriction and shame.
The funny thing is… when Halloween is enjoyed completely as a child would want to enjoy it, it actually is providing the perfect opportunity to learn about how to manage sweets and how to have a healthy relationship with them. ’m going to walk you through 5 steps to managing Halloween candy like a pro, be the cool parent, and actually walk away from season in awe how your little toddler or preschooler or school aged child can be totally cool around Halloween candy, without gorging on them anytime it’s in their possession.
Start the night with a filling supper
Aim to have a filling and nutrient dense supper with a good source of protein, fat, and fiber before heading out. Setting your child up to not be hungry before a night full of candy, means they will be more likely to enjoy them in moderation, versus gorge on the candy because of hunger. A combo with protein, healthy fat, and fiber will balance their blood sugar levels out, and help them stay in good spirits long enough to listen to their body and practice mindfulness (more about that coming up!).
Go out and collect your candy with only FUN being on the agenda
This is the time to purely enjoy the night and the childhood memories they’re forming! Avoid making comments about how much candy there is, how bad it is, how much sugar there is. etc. Just have fun!
Sort the candy with your child by choosing favourites (and for once… encouraging pickiness)
After an initial sifting of the candy loot, to ensure safety and no choking hazards, go ahead and instruct your child to sort the rest of the candy into two piles – a pile for their favourite candy, and a pile for the candy they don’t care for much. If your toddler or preschooler is experienced with different types of candy, they may already know their favourites. Most have no issue with sorting it into two piles – they’re riding on the high from a night of trick-or-treating and now it’s time to collect the best of they’re loot! Show them how exciting it is to find a favourite, separate it from the rest, and choose it specifically. This is step one to showing them how to eat what they actually love (rather than just because it’s there, or they feel they have to because…well…it’s candy). Pretty much the only time we’ll welcome pickiness :). You can lead by example and say something like “Mars bars are my favourite. I’m going to keep all my Mars bars for sure. But I don’t really like the rockets. I think I’m going to put them in the other pile”. If they seem to put almost everything in the “favourites” pile – that’s ok. Try not to comment. This means they’re still very excited, and treasure these foods, or they genuinely don’t know yet what their favourites are.. Let them start learning what they really like and don’t, this may take a few days, a few weeks, or maybe over a year, as they try and taste different candies for the first few times, they will learn what they love and don’t love. And that’s something you can talk about freely with them. And over this time, and when you do this in combination with the other strategie I teach about including desserts and sweets in your child’s diet, the novelty will wear off vs. you telling them they can’t/shouldn’t have it which only leads the obsession to linger and grow.
Let them eat what they want (on night 1)
As long as you’ve deemed it appropriate for your toddler to have added sugar/sweets (I recommend around 2 years old), let your child eat whatever they feel like they want throughout the night. Yes, as much as they want. You don’t have to say this – but if they ask for candy, you can say yes! I promise, one night of lots of candy will not ruin them, cause them to be obese, or give them cancer. If you start this, and the other strategies I outline in my toddler course, from day 1, you’ll see that the obsession with candy likely isn’t formed yet. They’re still very good at eating mindfully, slowly, and will stop when they’re full. Most toddlers and preschoolers may take one or two candies, maybe 3, and be done with it. They may even take a bite or two and then be distracted by something and never come back to it. The less you fear it, the more you’ll see that you don’t really have much to fear about it in the first place.
If you feel like they’ve already formed an obsession around candy and sweets, still do the same thing, but just look at the fact that they’re eating more candy than usual as a learning opportunity! An opportunity for them to learn what it’s like when they eat a lot of sweets. This is actually an important thing to teach them. Through the experience of them eating it, avoid commenting overly positive or overly negative things that make them think things like “this is special – I should want more!” or “This is bad – I should eat less”. Show your little one that candy is a food like any other food. Nothing special. Nothing to get worked up over, put up on a pedestal or conversely, to be shamed for when eating. Remember – food (including candy) – can be eaten strictly for enjoyment! It doesn’t always have to be tied to nutrition 🙂
Second, kids need to feel what it’s like to eat too much candy (if they do go there). My biggest suggestion is not to come from an “I told you so” perspective, but rather helping them observe what they feel and why. You can say something like “Oh I’m sorry your tummy is hurting. I think maybe having that much candy made it hurt. Let’s practice listening to our body next time and stop before it hurts”. You can read more about teaching mindful eating to your toddler here (which can be practiced all year round, with all types of food)
Resume your regular sweets/treats strategy
After night one, put the candy out of sight, maybe in a cupboard somewhere, and go back to practicing the strategies I outline in my Feeding Toddlers course, and focus on serving the candy, as you see fit, within your overall desserts/sweets strategy. Always offer it alongside a meal or snack (so that way it’s treated like any other food, it’s a small portion on the plate and it’s offered amongst a variety of other nutritious food options), and always let it be you who chooses when to offer it rather than giving it anytime your child asks for it. This is following in line with the feeding strategy I’m always preaching about – the DOR.
A tip when they ask for it outside of your planned meal/snack is to say something like “We’ll be having a candy with supper today! Right now we’re having x,y,z”. Making sure to let them know that it WILL be coming around, it is planned on your menu, shows them that it’s not forbidden, it’s not going to disappear forever after Halloween night, and they don’t have to feel that it’s scarce and never going to show up again. That’s only going to feed into the obsession around getting as much candy as they can when they DO get an opportunity to have it again – cause they’ll think mom or dad will never bring it around so I’ve got to get in as much as I can now. Maybe even sneak it. If they feel confident that you’re ok with offering it once a week, a few times a week, or maybe even once a day, again, based on your own individual sweets strategy you have in your own home, then they can relax about it all and trust that it will come around.
If the idea of having so much candy in the house stresses you out…think of it this way. Since you are in control of what and when to serve candy (as with any other type of food), it’s never going to be a “free-for-all” with candy after that first night. So you could have the biggest stash in the world up in a cupboard, but you’re still only pulling it out strategically once a day, every couple days or however often you decided works best within your sweets and dessert strategy. In between, it’s out of sight! TThe novelty will eventually wear off, but by not treating it as a restricted food that never comes out, it removes the idea that the candy is forbidden. It also decreases the chances that they will try to sneak candy in when you’re not around, or get in as much as they can when they do have access to it.
So to sum up, let Halloween be what it is – a fun night to dress up, be silly, and enjoy time together! Don’t stress about the candy – enjoy some, if you like it, and memorize the joy on their faces. There aren’t many Halloweens in your child’s life – they’ll be too old to want to trick-or-treat before long, so don’t let your fear of sweets take over the night, and just enjoy it!
If you want to learn my in-depth philosophy on how to manage sweets on a regular basis with your toddler, enroll in my Feeding Toddlers online course now! Create a strategy that works for your family regarding sweets and desserts, and feel confident that you’re setting your toddler up to have a healthy relationship with food AND to eat mindfully. Get started now!