Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Costumes, pumpkins, hayrides, and yes… candy!
Clients and friends always ask me what I think about Halloween candy for themselves and their kids. Questions like “How much should kids eat?”, “What about all that sugar???”, and my personal favorite… “What do you think about the Switch Witch”? Spoiler alert: Please don’t invite her to your house!
As parents, we worry about sugar, hyperactivity, and health for our children. We just want to make the best decisions for them.
But the healthiest thing to do is NOT to LIMIT your kids candy stash… it’s EMBRACING the candy as part of the celebration.
Research has always proved that restriction of food leads to bingeing.
It’s not healthy to restrict children of Halloween candy.
Why? It makes that candy at least 10 times more powerful.
But at the same time, I also understand that allowing your kid to eat candy all day, everyday isn’t the best thing to do either.
This is why I love Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for families. This philosophy is great for both parents and children!
Parents have a positive role in the heath and wellbeing of their children and kids have a specific role as well. Parents are in charge of when to feed and what to feed and kids are in charge of listening to their bodies and deciding on how much to eat. This provides consistency with meals and snacks, but also gives kids a chance to tune in and listen to how much food they need.
In this philosophy all foods fit, including Halloween candy! Each person will be able to figure out what works for them.
I have 5 simple tips to help you enjoy Halloween, eat intuitively, and also reinforce Intuitive Eating skills to children (your own kids or kids in your life!).
After all, kids are hearing messages around candy this time of year- we need to include children in these important conversations.
- Set the tone of the holiday ahead of time – start today! Ever since I had kids myself, I love to talk about and plan for holidays. I am certainly not perfect in planning, but I do try to do a few things around each holiday to celebrate. Halloween is perfect for picking pumpkins, going on a hayride, visiting a farm, and buying a costume. There are always so many fun activities in addition to favorite foods to enjoy.
- Plan trick-or-treating after a big snack (or even dinner). Especially if you or your child struggles to tune into signals from the body, experiment with planning a meal before eating candy or trick-or-treating. If a meal isn’t possible, have a nutritious snack like fruit and nut butter or a glass of milk. The balance of nutrition along with the candy will help stabilize energy levels and pair the sugar with some protein and fat to avoid a sugar high (and eventually a sugar crash!)
- Enjoy the candy and eat what you want! When we enjoy food and eat enough fuel, our bodies feel satisfaction from what we’re eating. Do not have hard candy if you really want a Reese’s peanut butter cup. (Chances are you will eat 5 hard candies, a small Hersey bar, and eventually eat the Reese’s peanut butter cup anyway!) With this in mind, don’t mindlessly eat just because it’s there (unless you have no distress from that type of behavior). I like to say nothing is lost if it’s not what you want to eat anyway.
- Talk about fullness and satisfaction with kids (and try to pay attention yourself too). We all have different connections with hunger and fullness depending on what our bodies have experienced that day (and leading up to the day too). By addressing hunger and fullness directly with children, you will reinforce these feelings are normal. When we talk about how these feelings feel in the body, kids strengthen the connection to identifying these feelings. Kids love pictures too so sometimes showing a simple scale of 1-10 with various faces of hunger and fullness is a great tool. (You can download our free Hunger Fullness Scale to help you explain this to your kids and yourself too).
- Notice this year’s experience vs. other holidays. Let’s face it- holidays don’t happen all the time. There are only a few times each year where we have a completely different eating pattern than “typical” and chances are you may remember a time where you didn’t feel so great on a holiday because of something to do with food (we all have those experiences!). Take a few minutes to think about how you want this year to be different leading up to the holiday and also evaluate after the holiday is over.
Here at Eat With Knowledge, we help parents navigate this tricky world of candy, holiday eating, and teach families how to have a great relationship with food. We would be happy to see you (or your child) for a nutrition counseling appointment.
Use this Hunger Fullness Scale to help you and your kids create a healthy relationship with food, and learn how to get in tune with your hunger and fullness.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.