Halloween is almost here! That means costumes, candy and excited kids are on their way, as well. While you’re preparing to have some Halloween fun with your kids, this is also a great opportunity to teach your child the proper role of sweets in their diet. Here’s what we advise for helping your kids stay healthy this Halloween.
Teach Healthy Eating Patterns, Not Candy Control
Some parents make sure their kids don’t overindulge on Halloween candy by only allowing them to collect so much, or by giving out alternative treats, like toys and stickers. Others confiscate the candy and replace it with a different reward, like a new book or toy (a tactic often called the “Switch Witch” or “Candy Fairy”).
But we’d like to propose something different. Rather than heavily controlling your child’s candy consumption, empower them to choose healthy nutrition practices. Studies have shown that placing restrictive limitations on a child’s consumption of appealing foods often backfires, resulting in the child wanting that food even more and doing what they can to obtain it (the I’m-not-allowed-to-have-it-so-I-want-it-all-the-more issue). This pattern of behavior, if allowed to continue, can create an unhealthy belief system in them that lasts into their adult life.
So instead of teaching a restriction or a negative lesson, teach a positive life skill: paying attention to their bodies when it comes to their nutrition as a whole. For instance, rather than forcing them to eat everything on their plate, as is a common practice, allow them the freedom of deciding when they’re full or deciding when they don’t want a particular food. Also emphasize the relationship between healthy eating and feeling physically good. This will teach them to exercise control over their own eating habits rather than emphasizing an unhealthy mindset about food, in which it is provided too freely or in a restrictive manner.
How to Teach Self-Control With Sweets
This healthy lifestyle mindset, if taught right, will show up in their self-control choices when it comes to candy consumption. If you allow them small portions of candy as an occasional treat in small quantities, rather than using it to control behavior, they will begin to learn what the role of candy should actually be in their diet. Then, when they’re tempted by a mountain of Halloween candy, they’ll be able to practice more self-control (with your guidance) when it comes to choosing what candy to eat and when. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Feed your child a healthy meal or snack before trick-or-treating so they’re not tempted to get into their candy collection before they get home. This will also reinforce the lessons you can teach once you’ve gotten home from trick-or-treating.
- When you get home, lay out and inspect their candy stash with them. Sort it out, putting the candy they like and the candy they don’t like into different categories. This gives you the opportunity to see what candy they’ve collected and look at it carefully for anything suspicious or dangerous. It also gives them the opportunity to begin deciding how they want to go about consuming it.
- Portion out the candy and store it. Put the candy they like in bags or a container, and give them the choice of getting rid of or keeping the candy they don’t like. Discuss the role of candy in their diet, and that it’s okay in small portions, needs to be savored and that they can come and ask for it if they want it. This leaves you in control of when your child actually gets it, but also teaches them that they’re actually allowed to eat it. Then store it in a place out of reach and out of sight so that they can’t grab it whenever they want (like they would with a cookie jar, for instance). Feel free to include it in lunches or desserts over time. This teaches children to savor and appreciate it, rather than craving it.
- Use Halloween candy as a way to teach your child an overall healthy lifestyle, focusing not on weight but on how to stay healthy in general. Focusing on bodily health and feeling good rather than physical appearance will give them the correct motivation to manage their diet now and in the future, and it will also reduce the risk of creating body image issues.
Not only do these practices teach kids to manage candy consumption on Halloween, but it also teaches them the place of sweets in the diet. It teaches them how to manage it independently and in other situations, such as birthday parties, carnivals and other community events where sweets are prevalent.
At Community Access Network, our goal is to empower you and your family to stay well. If you have any questions about this or about maintaining a healthy lifestyle in general, we’re happy to help! Visit us today or contact us to set up an appointment!