Full disclosure: I am not a Halloween person. I didn’t really grow up celebrating it. I don’t like costumes. I especially don’t like mandatory costumes. I sometimes get the urge to wear my butterfly wings at random times throughout the year, but I don’t because societal norms. I don’t like scary movies, and (wait for it) I’m not that into candy.
That being said, I know a lot of people love Halloween, and have a lot of fun celebrating, and sharing that celebration with their kids. But what do you do when you’re trying to teach your kids good eating habits, and it’s the Day of Dentists’ Mortgage Payments?
The basic answer is: nothing.
Let them eat the candy. All the candy, if they want to.
Whaaat! But they’re going to turn into hyperactive candy demons with no self control!
Hmmm, maybe, but only if you’re not feeding them correctly in the first place. If you regularly offer them a variety of healthy, good-tasting foods, and let them eat until they’re full (and also let them stop eating), they will likely have plenty of internal signals to stop eating candy when they should.
Evidence shows that kids who are told some foods are “bad” or “off-limits” are more likely to binge on those foods when they’re offered.
When we make candy into the super-terrific-awesomely-fun-thing-we-can-never-ever-have, we also make it into the super-terrific-awesomely-fun-thing-we-can’t-stop-thinking-about.
So, let your little monster go wild. If you thinking he’s wilding out a little too much, check in. Ask how he feels. “Are you full?” “Does your tummy hurt?” “Does that taste good?”
If you live in a particularly generous neighborhood, or just can’t wrap your mind around the littles eating the whole bag of candy, try these tips:
- Talk about it beforehand. If you are going to limit your kid’s treats, talk about before they’re swimming in the candy sea. “You can have two pieces tonight, and one after dinner for the rest of the week,” is a much easier concept to grasp before the pillowcase is full.
- Provide real food. Eat before you go out trick-or-treating or to the local block party. Also, have food available afterward. It’s easier to make those good decisions on a full stomach.
- Pick a few favorites. Ask what their three favorites are, and separate those out. The rest can go in the trash, or the Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. (Yes, it’ll last that long. It’s candy.)
- Take time to enjoy. Research shows that we enjoy treats more when we actually like them (sometimes research shows the obvious.) When you pick out those few favorite candies, saving the favorite favorite for last increases our perception of enjoyment, and makes us less likely to go dipping back for more dopamine hits.