After the kids wrap up an exciting night of trick-or-treating, parents have to come to a decision: What to do with all that candy?
Halloween night can often be an unhealthy one for youngsters who want to devour all the candy they can, and a stressful one for parents who want to keep their kids from getting sick.
MultiCare dietitian Brittany Thorpe said it can be OK for kids to have one unhealthy night of eating. It can even be an opportunity for children to develop a healthy relationship with food .
“Food is part of holidays. We want our kids to be able to participate,” Thorpe said. “If we end up having so much restriction, we’re not really teaching balance.”
Completely banning kids from eating their candy Halloween night can send the wrong message and encourage them to secretly binge on food another day.
“Displaying food as good or bad and having that restriction can lead to binge eating later on. When it is available, they will overconsume it,” she said.
Instead, Thorpe suggests parents ensure their children had a full day of meals before trick-or-treating and then allow them to overeat candy on a full stomach.
But when eating that candy, the family should do it together and be “candy critics” – carefully eating and “savoring” each piece, Thorpe said.
“Let’s teach them how to be mindful when they’re eating it. So it’s not just a race to see how much candy we can consume in such a short period of time,” she said. “Let’s say what we like or don’t like about a candy. In a lot of ways, that can help teach those internal cues that sometimes as adults we forget to pass on.”
This sort of modeling behavior is what parents should aim to do in general, even outside of Halloween. If parents are not following their own advice when it comes to food, their kids might not either.
“I can’t say enough about how important it is for parents to be modeling and displaying how and what we eat. Our kids are really sponges. We can teach out kids how they eat mindfully and listen to their bodies and find balance by … doing it ourselves in front of them,” she said.
According to Thorpe, it takes 15 to 20 times introducing a food before it becomes normal for a child.
If parents do want to limit their kids’ consumption Halloween night, she recommends using smaller bags or having trick-or-treating time limits .
After having the special night of Halloween, it is important to limit consumption in the following days so the overeating of candy does not become habit.
“It’s a teachable moment, too. If they ever eat too much candy, hopefully they learned that they actually don’t feel good when eating as much as they possibly can in one window,” Thorpe said.
With candy and sugar also comes hyper behavior and a difficulty in getting to sleep. Thorpe recommends parents set up expectations before trick-or-treating that after the fun, there will still be their regular nightly routine.
“Let’s read our books. We still brush her teeth, we still do that routine,” she said. “That way the kids aren’t surprised when you are encouraging them to go to bed.”
She also said parents with small kids should “give themselves a little bit of grace” for what can be a difficult but exciting night.