How to address Halloween candy with your kids

Author: Abigail Billingsley, RDN, LDN

As a dietitian, I receive a lot of questions around this time of year regarding the responsibilities of parents and children and Halloween candy. Should I set a limit on how much candy my child eats? Should we avoid a certain type of candy? Should I allow them to have as much as they want whenever they want?

My advice to parents is to enjoy Halloween and cherish those moments when your kids are excited about dressing up in their best costume. Notice the joy in their eyes as they are collecting their favorite candy. Foster freedom around food but encourage them to listen to their tummies. Don’t worry about the amount of candy they are eating or what type of candy it is, today is a fun day for trick or treating and enjoying the moment.

Tomorrow you can implement some ideas to ensure not all the candy is consumed in one sitting whether it’s what the kids collected or what was left over from your own trick-or-treater bowl.  Provided are ideas to guide your children in determining how much candy to eat and when:

  • Remembering that as a parent it is your responsibility to determine “what”, “when” and “where” your child eats but it is your child who determines “if” and “how much” they will eat. For example, it is the job of the parent to determine what candy or treat is offered, when it is available and where he or she can eat that treat. Then you can allow them to decide if they eat it and how much they eat.
  • No forbidden foods – it is important to keep all foods neutral including Halloween candy. Research shows us that kids who grown up in an environment where there is bribing, pressure or restricting of foods, they more often then not crave those “forbidden” foods. Allowing your kids to determine or self-regulate their food with the above guideline may be more beneficial then strict limitations on foods.
  • Be clear and consistent with your decisions about the allotted amount of candy per day. It takes the pressure off you as the parent to decide daily when to allow it. It could be a time limit (such as a week, month or until the candy is gone) or until they forget about it. Odds are after a few days most kids who have been allowed to have their Halloween candy may forget about it all together.
  • Incorporate candy as a snack paired with a glass of milk or with a side of fruit or vegetable so that your kids are getting more nutrition out of their snack, like protein and fiber to keep them feeling fuller and more satisfied – and less likely to go back to the candy bowl.

For more information about helping your child to become competent and conflict-free eaters, we recommend these resources from Ellyn Satter, a dietitian who specializes in helping families feed their children.

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