Halloween is here! As parents most of us will have to face that huge pillow-sack full of candy that makes its way onto our kitchen table or living room floor, whether it is this year or in years to come. The question is, how will you deal with it as a parent? Do you let your kids have a candy free-for-all so that it disappears quicker, or do you allow only one or two treats per day so that it lasts until Christmas? Do you make it disappear in other ways like by getting your kids to trade it in for non-candy alternatives or donating it?
I have to admit, I'm thankful that my son is young enough that he doesn't really know what's going on-- he hasn't quite reached the stage where candy is the main attraction for Halloween. To be honest, I don't even think he knows what Halloween is. I'm hoping that my two-year-old will be excited enough to get into his Tiger Costume, go to see his Nana and Grandpa--who will "oooo" and "awww" and take lots of pictures-- and maybe taste one or two sugary treats. Do you think I can salvage one more year of candy innocence? We'll see.
How you choose to deal with Halloween as a parent is a personal thing and there isn't one right way to go about it. Why should we be worried about our kids consuming copious amounts of candy? If sugar-rich foods like candy are consumed too often and in large amounts, it can contribute to poor dental health, displacement of other nutrient-dense foods, and unhealthy weight gain. At the same time though, fun-foods like candy and chocolate are delicious (let's be honest!) and shouldn't be limited too much, or else your kids will desire them even more (this happens to us too)! Here's what I plan to do when my kids are at the stage where candy takes precedence over cute costumes.
Fuel up before venturing out: Make sure that your kids have a healthy and balanced dinner before heading out trick-or-treating. This way, they won't be ravenous candy-monsters by the time they come home. Ok, maybe they still will be, but they'll likely be more open to enjoying their treats in moderation instead of devouring it all in one sitting.
Pour it out and sort it out: Get your kids to pour out their entire bag of candy and sort through it. Have them create two piles—one for the candy that they can't live without and one for sketchy and sub-par candy (candy without a wrapper or with a punctured wrapper, unfamiliar candy, and candy that they can live without). Toss this pile in the garbage or put it in a "to donate" pile. What you do with the "to donate pile" is up to you. Some parents have their kids trade it in for a non-candy gift like a book or some crayons. Or some parents have their kids actually donate it to a local food bank or a dental office.
Divide it up: Give your kids a handful of small plastic sandwich bags and get them to divide up their "can't live without" candy pile into 3-4 treats per bag. This teaches your kids that it is ok to enjoy these "fun-foods" in moderation, even everyday! Keep these little bags out of sight unless it's treat time because you AND your kids will most likely fall victim to the "See-Food Syndrome" if the candy is within eye-sight all of the time.
Dig in! Try not to play food police with your kids—the more you hover over them and limit their treat intake (or ban it all together), the more curious they will be and the more appealing candy will become. Try not to label treat foods as "bad." One of life's great pleasures is tasting and enjoying different foods—including those that aren't healthy. Let your kids try out a few of their favourite treats and join in on the fun. C'mon, you know you want to!