his is the first year my son is old enough to go trick-or-treating, but I am dreading it, because we’ve so far had a no-candy policy in our house. Also, we are spending Halloween with my cousin’s kids who basically get to eat as much candy as they want on a daily basis. I feel like a huge party-pooper but I am just not okay with him eating garbage! What do I do? – Sugar free mama
Dear Sugar free mama,
For parents, the avalanche of candy at Halloween can be scarier than the ghoulish costumes. On the one hand, there are your standards: healthy, natural foods. On the other, there’s tradition: an all you can eat sugar-soaked artificially Technicolored candy gorgefest.
Unless you live in an exceptionally health-conscious neighborhood where kale chips are the Halloween treat of choice, if you want to avoid sugar altogether, you have to avoid Halloween altogether. Which would be a bummer.
Though the chasm between kale and candy corn is admittedly vast, there are ways to compromise, giving you some control over your kids’ sugar intake while still giving them some degree of enjoyment. You just need to decide what enjoyment-to-control ratio you’re comfortable with.
The way we see it, there’s life, and there are special occasions. Some candy on Halloween is not going to undermine years of healthy eating. Forbidding your son from indulging while his cousins pig out, on the other hand, could provoke the beginnings of a flat-out sugar OBSESSION. We’ve too often heard about the sugar-denied kid doing all kinds of things – early childhood shoplifters you know who you are – to get his or her hands on the stuff once freed from mom and dad’s immediate purview.
Like you, many parents subscribe to the hard line no-candy lifestyle early on. And we totally support this. Giving a toddler a box of Mike and Ike’s? What!? Why? But an older kid is starting to pick up the corn syrup scent. Now your job is not only to take control but to teach control. Moderation can be a harder, longer lesson, but it’s a valuable skill that your child can eventually apply to all kinds of temptations.
The moderation approach to Halloween can include any of the following:
• Don’t let your little kid trick or treat forever. There’s no reason a three-year-old should be dragging a 3 lb bag of candy home.
• Make the event more about the costume and play than about the booty. For every mention of candy, there should be at least ten mentions of costumes, pumpkins, hanging out with friends . . .
• Feed him a good meal before you head out.
• Consider rationing the candy. Two pieces of candy a day till it’s done? If the bag isn’t so big, we’re talking a week or two. Let him pick his poison at a high-energy expending time of day. Not before bed. And not as a reward for eating “good food.” Candy as reward is not going to help your cause.
• Consider letting him feel sick. Some parents go for the one night extravaganza method. On the good side, this gets the horror over with, on the bad side, it is almost sure to result in a stomachache/teachable moment.
• Try not to make a huge deal about the candy. Tell your son it’s not good for your body to eat candy and/or junk food. But a little bit on special occasions is OK. This is the boring truth.
There are lots of variations and combinations of you could try. But all will require you to accept the basic premise: you’re letting your kid do something you don’t love. Believe us, this will not be the last time . . . but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. May we suggest some chocolate to soothe your wounds? Or maybe some kale chips.
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