I’m not a fan of candy or sweets in general, but it seems like they’re everywhere. To my horror, my kids have attended three schools and all of them have handed out candy as rewards. You’ll even see it at school sporting events. Yes, even for the youngest athletes… but that’s a subject for another day. So Halloween comes around and you may wonder how to handle the “loot” your kids bring home. As a mother, the negative effects of a candy binge are at the forefront of my mind. This is where we need to shift the focus temporarily from nutrition to habits. Yes, I’m suggesting Halloween (and other holidays) can be the perfect time to teach kids healthy habits. Self-regulation is an important skill and they’re going to learn it one day, with or without you. I encourage building this skill in childhood, as studies have shown that our eating habits as children usually carry on into adulthood. Here is a list of ways you can use Halloween candy as a TOOL for promoting healthy eating habits:
Encourage taste testing
What better way to encourage trying new foods, than with food they already want to try? Allow your kids to take a small bite out of several kinds of candy and ask them to talk about each one. Discuss how the candy tastes, smells, and feels. By doing this, you’re promoting the idea that it’s fun to try new things. This also helps them discover which candies they prefer, which brings us to the next tip…
Eat only the food you like best
It’s common to eat food just because it’s “there”. We need to teach kids to value their favorites and turn down the rest. When snack and junk food is in abundance (holidays, etc.), it’s important to learn we don’t have to eat in excess. Suggest trading the candy your kids don’t like for something else. This trade off can be for a toy or special experience (“We’ll go to the park,” or “You can have a slumber party with friends”). Teach your kids to eat what they like, not what they have.
Teach moderation and proportion
It’s okay to indulge sometimes, as long as it’s not a daily habit. Even when treating yourself, it’s important not to over-do it. Teach your kids moderation. Explain to them that candy is okay in small amounts, but we should eat a lot more from other food groups. Tell them: “We need to eat more fruits and vegetables than candy.” Draw them your own “food pyramid”, and explain why candy occupies the smallest portion of the picture.
So you’ve separated your kids’ favorite candies from the less desirable ones – now what? Let your kids know that they can have one piece of candy per day. Let them decide when they eat it. This technique gives them the freedom they want, while giving them the limitation they need.
Suggestion: Decide on a timeframe to continue this policy. Most dentists agree that it’s better to make candy eating season short, even if intake during that time is high. Give it 2 weeks or less.