Why I Don't Give Advice On How to Manage Halloween Candy with Kids


I love Halloween, but now that I am a dietitian, the holiday feels different to me. It's because each year I find myself being asked the same question over and over: ”Should I let my kid(s) gorge on Halloween candy?”

Now, don't get me wrong: I don't mind being asked this question. I just wish that I had a better way to respond.  I know and understand (for the most part) my own kids.  I don’t, however, know yours. I do not know know what the household dynamic is like, the age(s) of your children or how well they tolerate and respond to limitations. Are they able to understand that Halloween is a special time of year and that once it is over we return to business as usual the rest of the time?

What I can share with you is what I plan to do with my treat-loving dictators. My children are quite young (3 and 4 years old) so Halloween is a somewhat new for them. Last year I tried to employ what Ellyn Satter (a Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist) recommends. Ms. Satter’s recommendations are based on her belief that children learn to manage sweets and keep them in proportion to other food if you remove their glamour. She even suggests making sweets part of family meals and snacks. Those kids–who have regular access to 'junk' food' that is often controlled by parents– learn to enjoy them in moderation while the children who are highly monitored end up less capable of moderation, even in the absence of hunger.

How does the Ellyn Satter’s approach apply during Halloween time?
√After trick or treating, sit down with your kids and let them rejoice in all of their loot. Join them in sorting through it (for safety reasons). Then, let them east as much candy as they would like. Feel free to insist they brush their teeth a couple extra time before bed! 
√Next day, it's all you can eat again
√Day 3 and thereafter they can have a couple pieces for dessert and as much as they want at snack time.

Halloween can be a great learning opportunity if you let your child manage their own candy stash, doing your best not to interfere. As long as they follow the rules, they get to keep control of their treats otherwise it’s all yours. Once the candy is done it’s done, and chances are they'll get bored and forget about it before the bag is empty.

Last year my little ones forgot all about their candy stash by day three (I’m also certain my husband ate it all by end of day two). I plan on trying this again this year, and will let you know how it goes now that they are a year older and wiser. I know I'll feel compelled to offer veggies with their candy snacks, but I suspect they’ll pick the candy. Wish me luck : ).

What do you think about this strategy? Got some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments!

Some Tips for Parents to Avoid the Halloween Candy Binge

  1. Avoid the temptation to buy boxes of Halloween treats weeks before the actual date.

  2. Consider buying boxes of your least favourite treats, so that you are not tempted to eat the entire box before the first trick-or-treater rings your bell. Love smarties? Grab the mini Twizzlers.

  3. When buying your Halloween supplies, always get less than you think you need–not more. If you purchase too much start giving out extra candy as you’re nearing the end of the night.

  4. Eat a nutritious and satisfying dinner before you start handing out treats. Hungry hands are more likely to grab candy from the bowl.

  5. If you do happen to eat a few too many treats, try not to make yourself feel guilty about it. Move on!