October 21, 2020 5 min read
Halloween was always my favorite holiday because I’m a total sugar addict. Pillowcases full of candy, mountains of brightly-colored plastic wrappers, the crinkly sound of swimming my hands around in the sea of sugar… Fond memories!
I remember my parents trying to moderate the amount of candy I could eat each day. They tried to hide the pillowcase with candy on the top shelf of our linen closet. I must have been around 5 years old. I would wait until they weren’t looking and climb to the top of the closet, bring the bag down, scarf down a few pieces, and then... PUT IT BACK.
Because I was no dummy.
I knew if they found out I knew where the stash was, they would get rid of it. Suckers!
Now that I’m a parent of a 2-year-old, I’m getting nervous about her first trick-or-treating holiday and wondering what to do about the impending sugar avalanche. Being a recovering sugar addict, I’m fully aware of the dangers of added sugars, which can hurt our health over time.
All parents want to protect their kids, but no one wants to be the parent who spoils the fun. Fortunately, the thrilling parts of Halloween ARE possible without all the excess sugar — and without struggles between parents and kids over candy allowances.
There’s no “right” way to set boundaries around candy, and every parent will make a different decision about what works best or feels right for the family. We haven’t had huge conversations around candy with Della. She hasn’t had any other than some tiny pieces of dark chocolate. Joe and I are learning, along with all parents, and we’re trying some new strategies this Halloween.
Other parents have used the methods below to help kids manage their relationship to candy, and we’re excited to share our research with you!
One thing we’ve learned is that strict limitations don’t always empower our kids to make the best choices. Exposure to candy also arrives quicker than you might think, especially if a child goes to school or has friends who eat sweets more regularly.
Intentionally approaching the topic gives parents the opportunity to provide tools their kids might not get elsewhere. Successful conversations center around three key ideas:
This Halloween, we’ll try a moderation approach with Della by asking her to choose her ten favorite pieces of candy and give the rest away. However you decide to set guidelines for kids, remember that added sugars are only damaging over a long term. One night of eating candy, if it doesn’t become a habit, won’t hurt.
That said, many parents use these strategies to give their kids structured ways to navigate the bags of candy they bring home:
As part of positive modeling, parents can distribute candy alternatives to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. Parents might also invite kids to give their opinions about the alternatives: perhaps families hold taste tests of healthier options or conduct surveys about non-food possibilities.
We prefer great-tasting, low-sugar snacks that don’t contain sugar substitutes like erythritol, which can be controversial. Here are some of our tried-and-true low-sugar candy selections:
And here are some non-food item that we think can be as fun as candy:
Another upside to non-food items is that they can be sanitized easily and accommodate the needs of even more children, like those who have allergies or wear braces.
Let us know in the comments which of these strategies you use or might try! Share your ideas, too. We’re always looking for new ways to help our kids make healthier decisions.
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