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Raising Wayland: Handling the Halloween Bounty

How do you keep food matters in perspective for kids?

With Halloween right around the corner, I find myself again wondering how to handle this year’s trick-or-treating bounty at home. After the Halloween Night dump-and-trade when the kids can eat what they’d like, in past years we’ve then traded some in to the dentist for prizes, donated some to soldiers, written to the Switch Witch to request a visit (she comes and takes the candy in the night and switches it for a toy), or doled out the candy a piece or two per day until it’s gone. I have yet to be brave enough to let my kids have free reign with their candy to gorge on or ration out as they choose.

Mostly we stick to our standard rule of “all in moderation,” allowing a piece or two per day until the candy is gone, as long as the kids have also had healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables that day. Preferably the sweets are part of their afternoon snack, as we try to avoid tying treats to a meal as dessert except for special occasions (birthdays, eating out, an occasional ice cream shop trip, etc.).  To help with that, we also don’t keep many sweets or junk foods in the house, so holidays like Halloween or Easter present a particular challenge. 

For us, ice cream is almost entirely just something we get at the ice cream shop, cookies are what we bake (so we know what’s in them) when we want to do something fun together and treat ourselves with something sweet, and each meal (and at least one snack) has a fruit or a vegetable (or both) as part of it to balance everything out. 

But even with teaching moderation and setting clear rules for how much and when, my kids drive us crazy by still obsessing over their candy! Constantly “wishing” for more, talking about it, trying to decide what candy they’ll eat next – it makes me wonder if there’s some other approach we could use so that they weren’t so focused on the candy (and the eating of the candy).

How do you handle Halloween candy, as well as junk food and sweets in general, in your house in a way that teaches your kids responsible eating? Do you limit the sweets and junk they eat? Do you limit sweets and junk to particular times of day (snack, dessert, etc.)? Do you keep cookies or sweets in the house? Do you do dessert only after dinner, or only after you finish your dinner? Do you not do dessert?

How do you teach your kids healthy eating habits, including the ability to indulge without overindulging? Let us know in the Comments section below!

Brooklyn Lowery (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 01:30 PM
I was talking with a friend who is a nutritionist who works primarily with eating disorder patients. Neither of us have kids yet, but we were discussing how to teach your kids healthy eating habits without going so far the other way that food becomes a constant preoccupation and body image becomes an issue. Are we overthinking it, or is that something you, as parents, do think about? Like I said, we don't have kids yet, but were just thinking through the "somedays" and "what ifs."
Cari Cornish October 27, 2011 at 03:17 PM
The candy issue is a bigger issue for me than the kids! I try not to overemphasize the food issue. I have taken the approach of food as fuel for your body and your body needs certain things every day. So, I don't do "dessert" after a meal. Instead, I incorporate it in the meal. One thing that I have noticed that my son does that I struggle with is stopping eating when he is full. Wow, what a concept!
Amy Simmons October 28, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Cari, I hear you on the candy issue! Brooklyn, it's a good question...it's one reason that, while I've never actually gone through with it, every year I do consider just letting the kids do what they want with their candy when they want to. I wonder if I took the focus off of it and when they can and can't have it (or how much they can or can't have), if it would lose some of its attraction. I also would hope that if they did eat too much and got sick, they would learn their lesson and it wouldn't happen again! It's just so different from the way our house works the majority of the time that it's hard to let go and decide do let them decide. And now that I write it that way and read it back to myself, it makes me think that I should have faith that we have given them the tools and information they need, and that they are old enough to let them try managing their candy themselves this year! Does anyone out there do this at home? If you do, how old are your kids and do you give them any guidelines?
Anne M October 28, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I grew up in a household where sweets, candy, junk food abounded, and there were few limits. I can tell you honestly that just because something sugary is always available doesn't mean you stop wanting it or thinking about it. So just letting kids have at it and expecting that they will self-limit doesn't seem reasonable to me. With my kids, I sometimes wonder if I've swung too far the other way, no sweets in the house, very occasional dessert, no added sugar in their diet. Will they rebel and go on a huge sugar binge the first chance they get? I have no idea, but I'm hoping that teaching them the right way to eat will guide them in the future. We let them have a couple pieces of candy on Halloween night, then give the rest away.

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