I don’t know about your family, but in mine Halloween is a big deal. And why not? You get a bucket full of candy just for wearing a costume! But now that Halloween is over, what’s the best plan for dealing with all of that leftover candy? Should you use the Witch Switch? Just throw it out when they’re not looking? Tell them you threw it out and video it in hopes of getting a viral reaction? My answer, as pediatric dietitian, may surprise you. Before I continue, the recommendations are to avoid added sugars before age 2, so these recommendations are for children over that age.
What’s the problem with candy?
First and foremost, it’s important to determine why you are concerned with candy in the first place.
Are you concerned your child will eat too much? Remember with the Division of Responsibility, it is up to the child to determine how much they eat.
Are you concerned they’ll eat so much that they’ll get sick? Having an upset stomach is one way a child will learn that maybe they shouldn’t eat too much candy.
Are you worried that they won’t get enough nutrition if they eat all that candy? Obviously candy does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that a child needs, so should not be the main food of their diet, but it can play a part.
It’s very important for kids to have a healthy relationship with food. Restricting foods like candy, often leads to overeating them in the future.
Sugar and Hyperactivity
There have been many studies done that have shown no association between sugar and hyperactivity. This includes children with ADHD and children who were considered to be sensitive to sugar. Instead, researchers have founds that if parents are told that their child has had sugar (and their child has not), they will perceive that their child has more energy. This relationship is in our head. Think about the instances where kids are offered a lot of sugar: parties, holidays, big events. These situations are generally where kids may not be able to appropriately release their energy and may be deemed out of control.
Sugar and Weight Gain
Children are meant to gain weight in childhood. That being said, many parents are concerned that if they give their child “treats” like candy, it will lead their child to become overweight and face health problems in the future. There are a few problems with this concept.
- No single food is going to determine your child’s adult weight
- Limiting foods like candy, often leads to overeating them later
- Focusing on weight and not overall health behaviors has worth health outcomes
- Giving a child a healthy relationship with ALL food will likely lead them to better health outcomes in the future, regardless of weight
- This diet mentality is not healthy or appropriate for kids
So what should you do with all that candy?
Ultimately, it’s up to you. These recommendations are based off of what works for me and my family.
- On Halloween night, try to offer a filling dinner before trick or treating. Pick something that your child usually likes, if possible. Then let your child enjoy as much candy as they would like on Halloween night. Allowing unlimited access from time to time helps to decrease the feeling of scarcity.
- You can let your child sort out their candy. If there is any candy they don’t want, let them donate it somewhere. Explain the importance of giving to others and you may find that your child donates more than you expect.
- Serve the candy! Remember, you are in charge of what you serve. It doesn’t need to be every meal. I find that if you serve it more often at first, you can gradually decrease how often and kids don’t care. They are more excited by the novelty than the candy itself. If your child is still excited by the candy, that’s ok too! Remember that all food is food and all foods fit in a healthy diet.
- If you are finding that giving your kid candy is very uncomfortable, I challenge you to sit in that discomfort and really examine your relationship with food.
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.