Fighting against every parent’s desire to feed their child healthy foods is… Halloween. We send kiddos to as many houses in their neighborhood and get free candy. Then add in all the parties at school, community-wide trunk or treating, or preschool parades and more and more candy and treats get added to the collection. Healthy eating can easily go out the window until the New Year! Many may have a system down for how to handle or manage all the access to sugar on this blessed night, but if you haven’t found a good method to decrease sugar exposure- this post is for you. There are so many creative, unique, and healthy ways to minimize the amount of candy that little ones are eating.
Boxes for Deployed Military
Operation Gratitude is a non-profit that sends care packages to military troops that are deployed all over the world. This is a great way to start the season of giving off by donating extra Halloween candy to this organization. Kids and parents can send their own thank you cards to the troops as well. Visit https://www.operationgratitude.com/express-your-thanks/halloween-candy/for more information.
Buy the Candy Back
Several friends of ours offer to buy the candy back from their kids. Either an amount per pound or a flat rate for the whole lot. This can be a great idea to encourage children’s decision-making process, learn about numbers and increase math skills, and discuss what to do with the money received. It may be more challenging with littles though, who may have no concept of money and its worth.
Give Back to the Community
Take all that candy and package it into gifts to give during the holiday season. Take these gifts to your local fire stations, police departments, or give to teachers at your children’s schools!
Local charities may often take donations of candy so check with nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, or food pantries.
Swap It Out
Another great idea is to switch out the candy with another desired item- toy, craft, or experience. Registered Dietitian mom, Jennifer, on Instagram @KidsEatinColor offers a great idea for replacing Halloween candy. She takes their candy box, dumps the candy, and replaces it with new art supplies! The next day kids are surprised to see fun activities and art to create. If you do decide to switch out the candy, our recommendation is to discuss this with your children beforehand. Talk up the positive thing they will get in place of the candy so they are not completely shocked when it is gone the next day.
Dentist Drop Off
Many dental offices encourage patients to bring in Halloween candy and offer money or prizes. Check with your local dentist to see what they are doing!
Keeping the candy out of eyesight, but still around for occasional treats is another great option. Usually our kids are really excited about their candy the first few days, but the excitement dwindles quickly. Especially if they can’t see the candy- they tend to forget about it. Our years of enjoying this are disappearing though as their awareness increases each year!
There is not ONE right way to handle Halloween candy for each and every family. However, one piece of evidence-based wisdom to leave you with is to not forbid the eating of sweets and candy.
Not allowing kids to eat candy and sweets can actually have the opposite effect that parents are aiming for.
Research has shown that restricting children’s intake of high sugar and fat foods can lead to more preference for those restricted foods (1, 2). Instead, encourage moderation in their consumption of sweets. Discuss how they feel when they eat these foods, both mentally and physically. Then model eating sweets yourself in a healthy and moderate way. This is one of the BEST things we can do to encourage healthy eating habits for our children. So, let them eat the candy on Halloween and then decide for your family what is best to do with the copious amounts of leftovers!
Let us know—what do you plan to do with all your Halloween candy?
Fisher, Birch. Restricting access to palatable foods affects children’s behavioral response, food selection, and intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1264-72.
Birch, Fisher, Davison. Learning to Overeat: maternal use of restrictive feeding practices promotes girls’ eating in the absence of hunger. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Aug; 78(2): 215-220.