Don’t think those words go together? Most people would probably agree with you.
But if your worst Halloween fear is your child turning into a candy-chomping monster—and that you’ll have a similar lack of control—consider this take on Halloween by Children’s Hospital of Georgia pediatric dietitian Sarah Tankersley.
Situation No. 1: My child wants to gorge on Halloween candy!
A new take on this situation: It’s just one day.
Tankersley says that parents sometimes ask her how she feels about Halloween and the huge amounts of candy most kids bring home. “I very much believe that Halloween is just one day,” she said. “It’s just one day and it’s not going to be the ‘make it or break it’ when it comes to healthy eating.
“It’s an important part of childhood, and it’s perfectly OK to let your child go out and get candy and even have that bellyache from eating too much candy.”
Situation No. 2: It’s a couple days after Halloween, and my child is still going crazy on candy (and I’m not far behind).
A new take: Practice a little moderation.
It’s still OK for your child to have a little candy. (The same goes for you, if you’re the one who can’t stop snacking.) But this is when parents can teach kids that it’s time to make the candy last and enjoy it in moderation as part of a healthy diet, says Tankersley. For example, kids (and adults) can enjoy a fun-size piece in their lunchbox or as an after-dinner treat. “I do believe that if you say, ‘No, you can never have that,’ that’s only going to make you crave it more,” said Tankersley. “Studies do show that people can actually feel less addicted to sugar if it’s a part of normal life. At the same time, you want to teach your kids to be mindful. If anyone is feeling out of control around food, there might be something bigger than food there.”
Situation No. 3: But there’s just so much candy!
A new take: Let’s do something fun with this candy.
Between school and trick or treating and Halloween parties, your child may have collected enough candy to last for years. It’s so much he or she will never eat it all, and you certainly don’t want it around to tempt you. So here are some fun solutions:
• “Buy back” your child’s candy. Your child can trade in candy for a fun activity, like visiting a trampoline center, going rollerskating or visiting an indoor mega playground. “You’re getting your child to do an activity in addition to buying back candy, so it’s a double whammy for health,” said Tankersley.
• Donate extra candy. Teach your child the value of giving back by donating candy to food banks or other charities. Or, if your child has amassed a huge amount of candy before Halloween night, he or she can help give out candy at your own door to other kids.
• Make something with candy. Have a bunch of chocolate bars? Chop them up to make chocolate chip cookies. Extra gummies or M&Ms? Decorate cupcakes with them. Then take them to school or work. “That not only uses up candy but also gets kids involved in cooking in the kitchen,” said Tankersley.
Situation No. 4: We usually drive to neighborhoods to trick or treat.
A new take: Once you arrive, walk.
Whether your trick or treat in your own neighborhood or drive somewhere else to trick or treat, once you’re there, park your car and do the old-fashioned thing: Walk from house to house. Or if your child’s costume allows, ride your bicycles. Either way, make trick or treating a moment of activity for the entire family.
Situation No. 5: I really want our family to be healthier.
A new take: You can start now, even if it’s Halloween.
First there’s Halloween. Then comes Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine’s and birthdays. It can feel hard to be healthy when treats are everywhere, but just remember that moderation mindset. “Just have fun and enjoy the time as a family together,” said Tankersley. “Let yourself have a treat when you want it, then continue to build a healthy lifestyle that’s focused on a good mix of whole grains, protein, fruits, vegetables and a small treat if you want it. There are always going to be days like Halloween. It’s completely OK to enjoy that day and then move on.”
The Children’s Hospital of Georgia has the largest team of general pediatricians, adolescent medicine physicians and pediatric specialists in the Augusta area. For more information, visit our website at augustahealth.org/kids or call 706-721-KIDS (5437).