Blog: A Dietitian’s Perspective on Halloween Candy
If you celebrated Halloween as a kid, you probably remember the rules around candy in your household. If you have children now, you probably have some rules regarding candy in your house! Halloween is a holiday about dressing up and of course, eating candy! Although any age can enjoy this spooky sweet-filled evening, it is especially enticing for kids. For kids, it is all about finding the biggest Halloween basket, going to the best neighborhoods, and finding that one house that serves the King Sized candy bars.
As this day approaches, it is important to remember that this night only comes around once a year, and your kids likely won’t have access to as much candy any other time. Young kids are great intuitive eaters. They are very good about mindful eating, asking for food when they are hungry, and stopping when they are full. Halloween is a great time to lean into this quality in our children. Putting emphasis on how much, or how little, candy they are allowed to eat at one time will likely only teach them restriction and deprivation, which may lead to eating more in the future and possibly feelings of shame. Halloween is a great opportunity to empower children to make their own decisions around food.
While younger children are still good intuitive eaters, there may need to be more conversations about Halloween candy as kids get older. It’s important that if they want candy, they are not discouraged from eating it. If they eat too much and don’t feel well, it's important to address mindful eating and how to avoid this feeling in the future, but not to feel guilt or shame about it if it happens. So no, we don’t want to teach our kids that you can always eat as much candy as you want every day of the year. We do want to teach our kids to enjoy holidays and enjoy food. It is important for kids to understand that sometimes food is eaten simply because it tastes good! We are meant to enjoy the things we eat, regardless of their nutritional value. Overall, it’s best not to make a big deal out of eating candy and to approach it from a food-neutral standpoint.
Every family has a different approach, and the way one family operates might not work for another. One strategy I remember from my parents was they would encourage my sibling and I to separate our candy into piles. We’d make one pile for ourselves, one pile for our Mom, and one pile for our Dad, based on our preferences. This allowed us all to enjoy candy as a family and we had fun doing it!
Allow kids to eat all the candy they want, unconditionally, on Halloween. And for a few days after! It is important to allow kids their freedom on the holiday, but also remind them that one night is not their only opportunity to enjoy their candy. If your kid doesn’t feel well after eating candy, remind them that this can happen after we eat a lot. If we move forward without judgment, this can be a great opportunity for the child to learn not to feel guilty after food consumption.
Remind your kids about moderation after Halloween is over. There will likely be leftover Halloween candy after the night ends, which can be enjoyed along with other foods for the weeks to come in mindful quantities.
Consider having kids sort their candy. Having children pick out their favorite candies and give away the others allows them to practice making mindful choices. This is also a fun activity!
Practice food neutrality. Candy is just another food we eat in moderation, nothing to get worked up about! If we put candy on a pedestal above other foods, it could lead to hyperfixation. If there is less restriction up front, moderation will follow!
Make Halloween fun! There are a lot of opportunities to practice food neutrality and intuitive eating with kids on the holiday. There is also the opportunity to create lifelong memories by dressing up, enjoying candy, and creating traditions.