How To Moderate Kids Halloween Candy

How do you really moderate your kids Halloween candy?

How Do You Actually Moderate Kids Halloween Candy:

On Halloween it's not surprise that kids often end up eating WAY more candy than they usually do, but how do parents moderate the rest of your kids Halloween candy? I mean there is typically A LOT of candy left over...

Kids love Halloween and a lot of adults love Halloween. Kids love to dress up but of course, but I think what they love most about Halloween is getting all that candy! I know that was my favorite part!! But this is just another area of anxiety for us parents who don't want to be a stick-in-the-mud but also understand that our kids are getting less recess and active time than we used to and that obesity has been on the rise among kids. We hear conflicting messages, controlling too much makes kids want junk more, kids aren't developed enough to have self-control and don't understand the short or long term consequences of an unhealthy diet!

If you've watched any of my classes online, you know I like to share research that directly relates to topic at hand, and as many ways to approach a situation as possible that allows for healthy child development and strong relationships. So that's exactly what I'm going to do in this episode as well, share some research about kids and food and cravings and control and then give options. Because every family is different and every child is different and we all know that what works well with one, doesn't necessarily work well with another! So I'm going to just give you lots of food for thought. No pun intended. OK, maybe it is intended, just a little bit!

Our kids consume around 5% of their yearly candy consumption from their Halloween haul. Depending how long it takes your kids to work through their stash, that may seem like a lot of candy in a short period. But when you think about the flip side, 95% of candy is consumed during other parts of the year. Research shows just this, that throughout the year, kids are snacking more and more regularly on...yep, you guessed it!...candy!

In the long-run, this is a much more bigger problem that should be addressed. So if you are concerned about sugar and candy consumption, there's a whole lot of room in other parts of the year to work on teaching moderation around sweets that will have a much bigger impact.

Research also shows that girls who are restricted with sweets, eat more when they have the chance and grow up to be more overweight than girls who are given the opportunity to eat a moderate amount of sweets on a regular basis.

Other research reports that babies are born with the ability to self-regulate their food intake, even with sweeter foods, not that we are giving babies candy, at least I hope not! So the goal then is to help our babies, toddlers and kids keep that ability as they age. So we want to TEACH our kids how to listen to their body cues for fullness and hunger.

If we are feeding our kids lots of healthy options throughout the day, week and year, they will learn to eat sweets in moderation because they are tuned in, rather than restricting themselves from guilt, or fear of weight gain. As we all know, diets and restrictions actually make us crave those "off limit" foods even more!

My two classes on raising healthy eaters, one for infants and toddlers, the other for preschool and beyond, are chalk full of do's and don't for raising healthy eaters but I'm going to share a few of those here as they relate to this topic of helping kids learn to self-regulate.

Do offer lots of healthy options all day long, including snack time.

Fruits and vegetables should be a mainstay for every meal, especially snacks. If fruits and vegetables are the main part of snack time then you can avoid falling into that trap of kids who don't want to eat their meals because they are holding out for the less nutritious and more processed snacks.

Do not micromanage.

This means one more bite of this, and two more bites of that. Research shows that, parental control of feeding practices, tends to be associated with overeating and poorer self-regulation of food intake in preschool-age children.

Teach your kids to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

This means no pushing for a last bite or to clean their plate. My kids have to ask to be excused from the table so I will say on nights when one of them didn't eat much (which doesn't happen often, usually just when a friend is over or they are excited about a new toy!), "you didn't eat much, are you sure you are full?" Then I let their answer stand.

Do not reward eating a good dinner with desserts.

Research has shown that using food as a reward increases preschool-age children's preferences for those reward foods, (Birch, Zimmerman, Hind. Child Development, 1980) and other research has also demonstrated that this practice can actually result in children learning to dislike and avoid the healthier foods. (Birch, et al. Child Development, 1984) So using dessert as a reward for eating a good dinner actually teaches kids that dinner is what you get through to get to the good stuff.

Teaching moderation and self regulation is a process and Halloween can be a good opportunity to teach and practice these skills, how to listen to their bodies cues and then adhere to the messages.

Just like with everything else in this parenting journey and process, one day, our kids will leave home, so we want to take these opportunities that we have now to help them learn how to connect with their bodies.

So here are some ideas for ways you can go about teaching and coaching kids through this crazy candy holiday.

Have a full healthy meal at home before going out.

After trick or treating, have the kids pour out all the candy and look through for anything not properly wrapped, or any candies you feel are not appropriate or safe, such as hard candy for younger kids. I choked on one of those round hard candies when I was 5. I'm terrified to let my kids have those, even at 5, 5 and 7!

Since they've had a full healthy dinner, they aren't starving but they are very excited about their haul. So it's perfectly reasonable to let them go to town. Now if you do have a child battling weight issues and you are working with a nutritionist or your pediatrician, then work with your professional and follow his or her advice in this are, not mine! Hopefully you have a really good specialist who is up on his or her latest research but this is their area of expertise so stick with how they are advising you to help your child through this holiday. But for anyone else, and this is most of us, allowing kids to have this one night to enjoy what they want is a great opportunity to teach self regulation.

Depending on the kid, he or she may eat A TON of candy! So be ready. But, remind yourself that they are learning to tune in to what their bodies are telling them. If they aren't afraid you are going to try to stop them, they will actually most likely eat less!

After that first day there are several options.

1. Let them keep their bags of candy and when it's gone it's gone.

I know this sounds crazy! My parents actually did this when I was growing up. Not only did they let us eat whatever we wanted on Halloween night, they actually let us keep our bags of candy in our room! We all know kids are different in all areas and this one is no different. I have one kids who could have access to sweets and candy all day long and would never over eat. He will pick fruit over candy most of the time and will only eat a little bit of sweets before he says he's done. 1/2 a cookie? Done. Eat the icing off the cupcake. Done. The other 2 are a different story. When I was growing up, I was the kids who would eat a couple pieces before even coming down for breakfast and within a week, if not sooner, my candy was gone. My sister on the other hand, would still have candy left a month later, including the good stuff. to me good stuff equals chocolate. 2 to 3 months later she still had some the crappy candy left. (to me that's licorice, hard candy.

2. The other option is rather than allowing them to have full access to their candy to allow access to as much of their candy or another treat that they want.

Either of these gives kids another opportunity to learn to get in touch with their fullness cues. You can expect that there will still be lots of excitement about the Halloween candy, but if they got the chance to eat as much candy as they wanted the night before, then their indulgence will be more controlled and they are likely to temper their candy eating and do an even better job of tuning into their body cues. This approach lets our kids know that we have confidence in them to learn tune into their body cues and self-regulate their own eating, even with sweets. We teach them that they don't have to be afraid of eating too much, and they don't have to feel anxious around sweets.

Now this second night feels like too much and causes you too much anxiety, although, I really encourage you to visit that feeling and see where it's coming from. But if it causes too much anxiety, then you can move onto the next option after the first night of binging which is, systematically giving candy in moderation. This could be a piece or two in their lunch box. A few pieces after their after school snack but before dinner and/or a moderate offering after dinner.

Our goal is to neutralize sweets so that our kids learn that they are a part of life and how to enjoy them in moderation rather than feeling deprived or guilty around them and/or over-indulging because they are everything they represent, "off-limits" or "bad" or "unhealthy."

After a few days to a week, their obsession over Halloween candy will start to wane.

What happens after the first few days or a week and you still have all this candy left? What do you do? First, resist the temptation to toss or hide the candy. This tends to make kids more obsessed with it. Where is it? When can I have a piece? Can I see it?

Programs that send leftover candy to our troops are great if your motivation is to teach your children about generosity and gratitude. But it will only work if your children genuinely want to share and understand the gesture. If they don't, they'll feel like they are being forced and that aren't really in charge of this decision. This tends to have the exact opposite effect. Now they want candy even more, with more control over it and the will obsess over it even more the next time.

In the same vein setting up a trade for their candy for something else, like a special outing or toy, teaches kids that candy has power. kids and adults alike seek out items with power, think money! Money equals power. This strategy turns candy into money. Not only that, it doesn't teach kids anything about how to moderate their own candy consumption.

Here are a couple of don'ts, just in case you have heard of any of these tactics and are tempted to try them.

Don't show your kids pictures of decayed teeth that have rotted from eating too much candy. Just like showing smokers pictures of cancerous-filled lungs, these tactics don't do make an impact on changing behavior. Adults aren't even good at making the true connection of the future suffering that will come from today's habits. Kids are even less able to connect todays habits with later outcomes. One day (or even one week) of extreme candy eating won't make your kids' teeth fall out. It's that other 95% of the year of chronic candy consumption the causes all the damage. So just like I mentioned back in the beginning, concentrate on that moderation during that other 95%. Also, these types of tactics do a great job producing guilt, which just backfires when it comes to learning how to self-regulate.

Don't use Halloween to talk about nutrition. Kids already know the difference between candy and salad.

So a lecture on nutrition won't make a dent. If you are interested in learning more about creating healthy eating habits all year long and raising healthy eaters, you can see either or both of the classes on this topic on the website at under the development and health tab.

The children's car seat laws are about to change here in California on January 1st so I thought now would be a good time to share current and new guidelines about car seat safety laws and proper car seat setup, common errors in when strapping kids in that can be dangerous and even fatal, along with some tips on getting toddlers into a car seat when they just don't want to. While laws are different state by state, California has some of the strictest car seat safety laws in the country. This next episode is an important one that can save lives.


Are you a parent who has great ideas about how to moderate your kids Halloween candy? Let us know! We're always looking for ways to add more of the best ideas to our lists!