Parents often have a love-hate relationship with Halloween. Yes, the costumed kids are adorable and the parties fun, but what about the candy?
Rather than cringing when they see pillow cases stuffed with candy coming in the front door, Dr. Meghan Markovich, a pediatrician with St. Elizabeth Physicians recommends health-conscious parents use Halloween as an opportunity to help their children learn to eat sweets in moderation.
“Trick-or-treating can be a great opportunity to talk about nutrition and how making better choices can improve health,” Dr. Markovich says. “Discuss with children how we use foods as fuel for our bodies. Candy is a treat, but not a food we use to give us energy. Parents should also talk to children about dental hygiene after eating candy so they can keep their teeth healthy too.”
So, what can you do to keep junior ““ or his parents ““ from gorging on the milk chocolate bounty?
Here are some tips from Dr. Markovich and the Nemours Foundation:
Feed them first. Don’t let the kids trick-or-treat on an empty stomach. Feed them a healthy dinner first to curb the candy craving a bit.
Inspect the candy. Discard unwrapped or opened candies. If you have small children, weed out choking hazards such as hard candies and gum.
The big night. While you may opt to be more lenient than usual on Halloween night, or even the next day, chances are you’ll want to set some ground rules for the ensuing days or weeks when the candy is in the house. Talk with your kids about your expectations and set some ground rules.
Assess the stash. Know how much candy your child has collected so you can determine your strategy and gauge how quickly the pile is diminishing. If the pile is diminishing at a reasonable rate you can relax. If not, you may want to intervene.
Helping resist the temptation. Don’t let your child store candy in his or her bedroom where the temptation to dip in may be too great. Store it in the kitchen or ““ if everybody is dipping in too frequently ““ on a high shelf.
Horse trade. Part of the fun of Halloween is trading candy. Put a twist on that time-honored tradition. If your child’s haul
xceeds your comfort level, consider “trading” him a nickel, dime or quarter (you pick your price point) for every piece he’s willing to give up.
Provide choices. Halloween should be fun for everybody, including children who can’t have candy due to allergies, health or weight problems. For children who can’t have candy, try substituting acceptable treats or find a family-friendly alternative to trick-or-treating, such as a corn maze or haunted house.
Model behavior. If you want your kids to practice moderation you need to do so as well. Buying Halloween candy at the last minute and giving away or throwing out leftovers can help. Giving out non-food treats from the party supply store such as stickers, temporary tattoos, false teeth and little bottles of bubbles, or healthy snacks such as little boxes of raisins or bags of sugar-free gum can help you limit the amount of candy in the house.
“Setting a limit ahead of time should help kids know what to expect,” says Dr. Markovich. “For example, your child could have three to five pieces of candy on Halloween night and then one additional piece periodically for a time before all the candy is gone or discarded.”