As a new homeowner and Dietitian, my friends and family have asked me, “What will you be dishing out to your first trick or treaters?”, or my personal favorite, “What are some healthy candy options?” My response seems to shock most…
Confession: I am a Registered Dietitian and I handout candy on Halloween. No, it is not some sick ploy to ensure my job security. So why, with child obesity rates near tripling since 1970 and 1 in 3 kids overweight or obese, would I hand out highly processed, sugary treats? Here’s why..
Halloween is only ONE day out of the year. Trick or treating and Halloween have gone together since the 1940’s, long before the rise of the obesity epidemic. More concern should be directed the highly processed, novelty snack foods that decorate the supermarket shelves 365 days per year.
I turn to renowned Feeding Expert and Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter on how to handle the candy situation.
“Halloween presents a learning opportunity. Work toward having your child be able to manage his own stash. For him to learn, you will have to keep your interference to a minimum. When he comes home from trick or treating, let him lay out his booty, gloat over it, sort it and eat as much of it as he wants. Let him do the same the next day. Then have him put it away and relegate it to meal and snack-time: a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert and as much as he wants for snack time. If he can follow the rules, your child gets to keep control of the stash. Otherwise, you do, on the assumption that as soon as he can manage it, he gets to keep it. Offer milk with the candy, and you have a chance at good nutrition.” © 2008 The Ellyn Satter Institute
The truth is, by “hiding” or secretly dumping half the stash when the kids go to bed, we are not teaching them how to manage their sweets. Halloween or not, our environment is filled with unhealthy choices, and when it comes down to it, the stash of bite-size individually wrapped morsels of saturated fat and sugar are one of the least of worries.
So what can you do?
Educate: Educate your child on the importance of fresh, healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. These foods give us energy to run and play, nourish our bodies and help us grow, which is why we need to eat them everyday. Candy, along with cookies and chips, are considered “Treats”. Yes, they are tasty, but they do not have the nutrients we need which is why we only can eat them “sometimes”.
Here are some other options to consider
Once your child has collected the goods, have him split it into three piles “favorite”, “OK/ maybe”, and “don’t like”. Using Ziploc Snack Size Bags make individual packs of 2-3 pieces, an easy solution to daily portion control.
Instill mindfulness… Have your child “explore” any candy he so chooses. Ask questions like “What does the wrapper look like?”, have him slowly open it, “What does it feel like”, “What does it smell like?”; Ask him which are his favorite/ least favorites. “Does it melt?” “Is it chewy?” This can be an excellent opportunity to remind your child that we do not to eat just because it is in front of us but rather to savor and enjoy.
Candy Cash in
If the idea of sitting back while your child gorges himself to near vomiting is a little too nerve-racking, prepare a garbage bag of toys or prizes in exchange for “X” amount of pieces of candy, he can chose a toy from the prize bag OR offer a “cash upgrade” every time he reaches for some of his loot.
Excess candy can also be saved for Gingerbread Houses during the holidays or freeze chocolate for holiday baking.
Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween!
Katie Weller MS, RD, LDN