Halloween is such a fun time. Kids can dress up, and for one night be someone they are not. Some families have themed costumes for the entire family. Others create delightful culinary creations where regular foods look like spiders, pumpkins, or mummies.
However, some parents see Halloween as stressful due to the large volumes of Halloween candy that enter our homes on the night of ghosts and goblins.
As a dietitian, many think I throw away all my kids’ candy and that is not true. Now, I do likely uphold my reputation and give out non-candy items on Halloween, but I try to give out cool items. Last year, I handed out pumpkin whoopie cushions. What is going to give you more hours of Halloween fun, a piece of candy or a whoopie cushion? I am going with the whoopie cushion.
There are many ways families can handle the Halloween candy load.
Restriction – Typically restriction of the Halloween candy involves a child only having one piece or having to earn that piece through good behavior or eating their vegetables. While this method is very popular it is not recommended as research shows when a highly-tasty food, like candy, is used as a reward, restricted, or treated with elevated status, that it makes the child desire it more. This could lead to obsession, overeating when presented with the food, or eating when the child is not hungry. Plus, if the candy lingers for weeks with your child having to earn their share, this could magnify food being a battle at your house.
Switch Witch – The legend of the Switch Witch is you inform your child that if they leave their candy out for the Switch Witch, she will take it while they are sleeping and leave a present in its place. The present is not meant to be elaborate. Ideas would be books, games, or gift card for a small amount to a place they like. Some families give all their candy to the Switch Witch, but some families (like mine) provide a portion of the candy to the Switch Witch. Typically, I encourage my kids to give the candy that no one likes. This candy then gets sent with my husband to work.
Unrestricted Access – This is exactly as it sounds. Let your kids collect as much candy as they would like and then let them eat as much as they would like afterward. The drawback of this method is that some children may be highly affected by excess sugar or artificial dyes found in candy and it could make bedtime difficult. A benefit could be that they get to eat it with no restrictions for this one night, which may lead to them thinking candy is not a highly-elevated food and just something to eat.
A Hybrid Approach – This is the approach that may include many different tactics for handling the Halloween Candy. For example, they may let their kids eat all they want the night of Halloween, but then the next day they can only have it for a treat 1 time per day. Others may freeze chocolate candy after Halloween and save it for special occasions, like going to the movies or family trips. The nice thing about this approach is it does not focus on restriction but shows kids that candy and treats can be enjoyed in different ways and at different times.
My family practices both the hybrid approach in addition to the Switch Witch coming to our house. Typically, they eat several pieces the night of Trick or Treat, then they pick out what they want to give to the Switch Witch. Then shortly after Halloween, the chocolate candy is frozen and placed in the deep freezer. Another tactic I use at my house is making sure that they eat dinner prior to Trick or Treat, and I make sure the dinner is balanced, therefore, I know the candy is not their meal, but a snack.
Finding the technique that is best for your family at holidays is the key. How do you handle the Halloween candy load? We would love to hear your ideas.