Remember the good old days, when Halloween funneled pounds and pounds of candy into the house—but not quite tons? For parents, dealing with the annual tidal wave of sugar can be a real challenge. We want our kids to enjoy their haul, of course, but that haul gets bigger every year.
Halloween has changed. It used to be just one big day of candy. But now there’s also a Halloween party at school, and at a friend’s house, and so on. Our kids are being bombarded. We need to give them the tools to make healthy choices.
• Don’t buy your candy until a day or two before you hand it out. Otherwise it’s too tempting to eat it beforehand.
• Buy candy you don’t like. Hate dark chocolate? Make that the treat you give out.
• Emphasize the fun of trick-or-treating, rather than the subsequent feast.
• When the trick-or-treating is over, have the kids pick out their favorite 20 pieces to keep. Some homes then turn around and hand out the rest. To many parents’ surprise kids are often perfectly satisfied keeping just 20 pieces.
• Some parents hand out fun, non-candy items: spider rings, pretzels, stickers and tattoos, for instance. Or, get creative. For Halloween parties, make “fingers” out of string cheese.
• One increasingly popular approach is telling kids—especially younger kids—about the “Switch Witch” or the “Halloween Ghost.” The kids put their loot on the doorstep, and this figure takes it that night, replacing it with something fun but not candy. (Note: Parents must resist eating it, too!)
• Some older kids enjoy trading their candy for cash. Some dentists will buy back kids’ candy. Some schools even set up programs where they buy it back, sell it to US troops, and get to keep the money.
For children as well as adults, it’s vital to learn moderation and the skill of making healthy choices. Research shows that kids don’t simply “outgrow” the urge to eat unhealthily if they don’t possess the tools to do so. Look at this Halloween as an excellent opportunity for parents to teach and model healthy choices, at holidays and beyond.