Halloween is coming up soon, and with it comes the stress of trying to manage our little ones’ mountains of candy. Let’s start things off with a quick true or false, or, in the spirit of Halloween, trick or treat.
It may come as a complete surprise, but the answer is TREAT (a.k.a. true)! Let’s unpack this before your brains turn into monster mush.
THE SPOOKY SCIENCE
Kids are incredible little beings born with the ability to self-regulate their intake. This means that when they have regular exposure to sweet treats, they eat these foods in moderation. In contrast, when candy is restricted, children will consume it in excess once they have access to it since they don’t know when they will have it again. In essence, they gorge on it even if they are not hungry or enjoying it. Control tactics can also lead to other unhealthy relationships with food such as sneaking treats or feelings of guilt. Letting kids have control over their Halloween haul helps to teach them self-control and moderation.
But it’s not all up to them; parents have an important role to play in leading their children to making good choices. Ellyn Satter, a Registered Dietitian and child feeding expert, uses the Division of Responsibility to outline the roles of each party to have a successful eating experience. Parents are responsible for what is eaten, when, and where, while children are in charge of whether to eat and how much. Let’s see how this can be applied on Halloween night.
MANAGING THE HAUL
This first important thing to consider for having a successful Halloween is to have a balanced meal before going out. This will ensure our costumed kids are well-fueled for the duration of this most exciting night and prevent excess candy consumption stemming from starvation. Once home, be involved in celebrating their spoils; ask them what they’re most excited about eating and have a piece yourself to normalize candy eating. After that, the kids are in charge of their Halloween haul as long as they adhere to the boundaries you set out in relation to the Division of Responsibility. Set a specific time and location for candy consumption to take place, such as after dinner and at the table. Keep distractions like the television to a minimum to promote mindful eating habits and avoid mindless overconsumption.
Overall, it’s important to look at the big picture: Halloween is a single day! Don’t stress about their sugar consumption on one or two days; it’s more important to ensure that the overall picture is balanced and nutritious. So let them indulge and trust that they are able to moderate their candy intake. By doing so, you’re setting them up to listen to their bodies and have a healthy relationship with food into adulthood. Of course, there’s the possibility that your child will overindulge resulting in a stomach ache. Mistakes are excellent learning opportunities. Be sure to not shame or ridicule them, but ask them how they are feeling and if they would do anything differently next time.
If you’re looking for other ways to mitigate excess candy consumption on Halloween, check out these tips:
To learn more about how to raise a healthy eater, book a nutrition consultation with me today!
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Sincerely in Health,
Brittany Trueman, MHSc, RD