Candy has been a part of celebrations and traditions for thousands of years. It is not going away anytime soon, so we may as well embrace it and use it as an opportunity to teach children about healthy relationships with food. Here are some tips to help you get through the sugar rush of Halloween.
- Have a balanced meal before you go out. One with fiber, protein and fat. These three nutrients will help to fill your child up and make it easier for them to moderate their candy intake. Fast options include Crock-pot chili, soup or stew or a black-bean and chicken quesadilla.
- Set parameters for how much candy the children can collect. This can mean trick-or treating for only 1-2 hours or going until a certain size of bag/bucket is filled. This is not being restrictive or mean, it simply is setting limits and is part of the “division of responsibility” in feeding children. Once home, have the kids divide it into a “love it pile” and a “leave it pile”. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean the kids need to eat it until it’s gone. They should be encouraged to eat only what they absolutely love – another lesson that will serve them well later in life. Save the “leave it pile” for holiday baking or donate it. This teaches the children to savor these sweet treats and not mindlessly eat them just because they are available.
- Don’t make candy a “forbidden food”. There is evidence that demonstrates the more often a child is restricted candy, the more they want it. By contrast, if they are given permission to eat it daily, their caloric intake of that food will actually decrease over time. Parents can still put parameters on this and decide what and when they can eat it as part of the “division of responsibility” in feeding children. This is an evidenced based system that guides parents through how to successfully feed a child without giving into demands and wishes.
The division of responsibility states that a parent decides what, when, and where to eat and a child decides how much of the provided food they eat and whether or not they will eat it. It teaches the child healthy eating behaviors and sets the child up for a healthy relationship with food.