From cavities to all that extra sugar, there are plenty of Halloween tricks that can weigh on a parent’s mind about all those Halloween treats for their kids. Thankfully, you’re not a bad parent for worrying, nor should you feel like one for letting kids enjoy their Halloween candy, either. Read on for some expert tips how to make Halloween candy just a little bit “healthier”—at least in how parents can think about it.
Dietician and blogger Abbey Sharp tells parents to avoid teaching your kids that there are “good” and “bad” foods and instead teach them about how to judge when they have had enough of any food and should stop eating. “No food is good or bad, and candy doesn’t need to be made into a big deal,” Sharp recently told Romper.
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“Our job as parents is to decide when, where and what to feed our kids, and it’s our kids job to decide how much and whether they eat at all,” Sharp said. Instead of hiding candy and doling it out sparingly, Sharp suggests allowing kids access to their candy as they wish and encouraging them to regulate themselves.
“Halloween is an amazing opportunity to teach your kids how to tune into their hunger and satiety cues,” she added, noting that this is a great time of year “to teach kids that all foods can fit and that foods don’t have moral weight.”
Dr. Dina Rose, eating habits expert and author of It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating, agrees that it’s better for parents to avoid discussing Halloween candy in terms of being healthy or unhealthy and instead focus on developing specific eating habits.
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Rose suggests setting up a communal candy jar and adding all of the collected Halloween candy to it. The candy is then blended into your already-established sweets routine and isn’t an additional treat on top of whatever your kids already enjoy. She also recommends that if you want to limit the amount of candy in your home overall, simply visit less houses.
Another clever idea is to create a sensory game with your kids using candy. Rose urges parents to sample different treats with their kids and talk about how each piece tastes, smells and feels. Sensory exploration can be a great way to get past picky eating, she notes, and is also a great way to teach kids how to really appreciate their food for what it is and be more mindful as they eat rather than simply gobbling it all up.
At the end of the day, Rose wants to remind parents that it’s all a learning process. “There will be days when your child will have a treat in the morning and then be invited to an ice cream outing in the afternoon,” she says. “Sometimes you’ll break the rules.”
And remember—we’re the parents. We make the rules, right? So let’s not be so hard on ourselves and let the kids have their fun—and eat it, too.