When Halloween rolls around, there are some that cringe and some that jump for joy, but what’s likely circling through either’s head is the heaps of candy that is about to be received and consumed.
Halloween doesn’t have to be a fearful holiday – in terms of the candy consumed – you may still choose to partake in the fright fests.
Here’s how to enjoy Halloween without worry, and in fact, start to establish some significant lifelong lessons in nutrition wellness.
If your house passes out treats, you may consider having a mix, rather than offering nothing but treats. Parents will appreciate you and kids will enjoy the variety as well. Individual bags of popcorn, mini KIND bars, mini LARABARS, 100 calorie packs of nuts, single serve bag of trail mix, boxes of raisins and Honest Waters offer a mix of whole grains, nuts and/or fruit that can be more nutritious. Stickers, stamps, mini playdough, mini bubbles and glow bracelets are all great non-food options that are also considerate of kids that have allergies or intolerances to foods or dyes so they can participate as well.
Before heading out, offer your family a balanced and nutritious meal that is also satisfying and festive. Your kids will not be as hungry when it comes time to sort through the items collected, making them less likely to be candy monsters, hopefully. Homemade chili with bean or tortilla chips or butternut soup and grilled cheese or quesadillas would be wholesome, Halloween-worthy meals. Either of these can also mostly be done in the slow cooker, which is an added bonus for busy families.
Sort it Out
When all is said and done and everyone is home together, encourage your kids to sort their bag of goodies into “favorites to keep” and another of one to discard, trade or donate. The candy fairy, switch witch or great pumpkin can be fun traditions to bring into the family dynamic where a valued toy or other high-prized gift can be swapped for the second, less-valued pile. The act of categorizing foods into what they love and having the authority to make those choices themselves is a valuable lesson for children (and for adults, for that matter).
After the stacks of candy have been sorted, allow your child the freedom to eat as much as they desire that night. This may sound alarming, but lowering the focus of the treats by not making a big deal over them will reduce their appeal, especially long-term. It is also a chance to teach kids about moderation and how to listen to their internal innate hunger cues. Your child may decide to eat some that evening, but save a majority for later to be used over time. Other children may choose to sample multiple pieces but not finish each – a chance to applaud their interest in trying new things – something that can be helpful at other meals when trying new foods. Other children may simply over consume that evening, and that can also be a lesson for later as well.
Rest assured that one evening of overindulgence will not ruin their eating pattern for the rest of their lives. It can be another valuable lesson in why they feel the way they do and how to prevent this feeling in the future.
Discuss and Decide
Each family will need time to discuss and decide what their plan can be for the unique needs and preferences of their children. When it comes to managing the Halloween candy stash, everyone needs to be on board and portray the behaviors they wish to see in their children. Kids and parents should enjoy some candy or treats without guilt and without feeling the need to hide it when they do eat it. Offering it with a snack (like fruit or yogurt) can be a healthful way to teach balance or consider offering it with a meal regardless of how much they ate. Placing treats on the same level as food will shrink their pedestal and put them on a more level playing field with more healthful foods.
Food and festivities should not be associated with guilt or worry; you should be able to simply enjoy the occasion and even use it as part of establishing a lifelong healthy
relationship with food.
Rebecca Miller, MPH, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian Nutritionist with Ochsner Fitness Center. She also writes a blog called Twisted Nutrition where she shares recipes, meal plans, and more! She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org 504.842.9551 or followed on Instagram (@TwistedNutrition).