Success on Halloween night means lots of candy might be lurking around your home. Here's how to keep everyone on track.
The spookiest time of the year doubles as prime time for kids to score a candy jackpot! While Halloween is a tradition, it's important to keep in mind how damaging a big sack of sugary goodies can really be for a health-focused family. It's just as important to remember that there are ways to keep the family healthy, without making your kids unhappy - especially after a night as magical as Halloween.
If you're a parent, play the Good Witch (or Warlock!) role, and divvy up the sweets in a way that will keep your kid’s spirit soaring. Here are 10 ways to do it:
Don't trick the trick-or-treater
Your kid has spent hours - days! - fantasizing about the mischievous magic of Halloween night. Choosing a costume, making Halloween crafts, and watching spooky movies are just a few examples of the festive activities that amplify a child’s excitement for the fun traditions that come hand-in-hand with Halloween night. That's what makes it fun! You will absolutely crush your kid’s spirit if you don't take their candy loot seriously. The witchiest thing you could do is take something from your child’s coveted candy stash without talking about it first.
Let your kiddos know prior to venturing out into the night that when they return, you will join in on the excitement of sorting the candy. Don’t police your kids! Keep a watchful eye without being a downer. This way, they’ll be mentally and emotionally prepared to have you there checking out the collected candy supply. You can also use this time to mention the basic safety concerns of collecting candy from strangers.
If something doesn't look right, or if you see your kid snagged your favorite candy that you haven't had in 10 years, don't trick your child. Explain to your little one why that piece of candy doesn’t look right (say, a ripped wrapper) and feel free to voice that your favorite treat is sitting in the pile of loot. You might be surprised when your kid’s eyes light up in excitement to give it to you. And if they don’t, move on and pick up a piece of that candy in the grocery store tomorrow if you really need it.
If your kiddo has allergies, or you just can’t stand the thought of having so much Halloween candy in the house, make a deal. Explain to your kid that she can trade in 10 pieces of candy for a small toy, or 20 pieces of candy for a something a little bit bigger. It’s a smart idea to have two or three options stashed in the closet at home. If your kid really just wants to keep the candy, then you can just save the toys for Christmas.
If your kids are old enough to understand what it means to give back, then run this by them! Your kids can send some (or all!) of their candy to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends more than 100,000 care packages annually to U.S. troops and their children. Kids will have fun putting together the packages and including a special letter or picture. If you want to do this with your family, jump on it! The deadline to send Halloween candy is mid-November.
Pace your portions
So you've hawked, negotiated, and donated and you're still left with a pile of individually wrapped sugar? It's more important (now than ever before!) to harness the power of portioning. As excited as your kids may be about their candy, it’s your job to protect them from candy crashes, M&M meltdowns, and Twizzler tantrums by setting some limits and standards around two things:
- How often: Decide when your kids will get to indulge. Is it once after school? Or at lunch and then again after dinner? How often on weekends? Include your kid in the decision making around this, and leave some room for negotiating. If you want your kid to have no more than three pieces after school, go in asking how she feels about choosing one piece every day after school. If she wants more, let her feel heard and agree on two pieces. If she’s still pushing for more, then you won’t feel like you need to get into a battle about her having three pieces after school.
- How much: How many pieces of candy you give your child in one sitting is up to you, your child, and their current diet. If your kid is a healthy eater, do try to to limit the candy during each treat time to one to two pieces. If your kid regularly snacks on sugary foods or sodas (New Year’s resolution, anyone?!) then they will have more tolerance for the sugary candies. They might be able to have two to four pieces.
If your kid is younger, keep the candy out of their reach until it's time to pick out pieces. If your kid is older, don’t try to control keeping the candy if you’re working on developing trust. Let your kid keep the stash, but keep an eye on it. If it's depleting at a faster rate than agreed upon, then you can certainly be the keeper of the candy.
Save some for baking
As you're sorting through the sweets with your kid, explain that some of the candies can be used for baking. Even better, ask your little baker if he'd want to set some candy aside to bake a Thanksgiving dessert when the time comes! Whether it's for Thanksgiving or not, set a goal to set some baking-friendly candy aside in your baking cabinet. The stash keeps getting smaller.
Add it to a smoothie
Ask your kids for some peanut butter and chocolate candies to make them a Halloween Milkshake. You can use chocolate protein powder, milk, and a scoop of peanut butter to whip up some healthy smoothies. Garnish with the candy or toss some chunks into the smoothies. Your kids don’t need to know that the entire smoothie isn’t made from candy - plus, it will still taste like it.
Make trail mix
Grab those seeds, nuts, pretzels, and whatever else you like in your trail mix! Toss in some candies to sweeten it up. Keep in mind that not all trail mix is healthy, so think about the overall calories and sugar found in the dried fruits and other ingredients you will use. This is a really fun (and sustaining) snack for kids to bring to school, too.
Store it for the gingerbread house
Choose the hard candies that will look adorable as Christmas lights on a gingerbread house. Don’t make your kid feel like you’re takings something away. Remind her that she can choose to design her gingerbread house however she likes, and if she sees something really cool, then you’ll help her by putting it aside. Watch that stash get even smaller.
Bring some to the office
Tell your kids you’d like to bring some candy to the office and see what the reaction is. You deserve some of this candy after all of the hard work you’ve put in driving back and forth to Halloween get togethers, supervising the trick-or-treating festivities, and giving your kid the best face paint job on the block! Toss some candy into a dish and watch your coworkers empty it out, or keep them close by your desk.
If you work out as a family together (again, some New Year’s resolution inspiration!) explain to the family that when sweets are added into the diet, it makes sense to add in a little extra time for physical activity during the day. Whether that means five extra sit-ups or ten more minutes stretching, let the kids know what it means to strike a balance between diet and physical activity. That’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.