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Before I became a mom, I thought feeding my kids would be the easiest thing because I’m a registered dietitian myself. I took the classes, I read the articles, I knew what nutrients they needed to eat to grow and thrive!
Well, then I became a mom, and you don’t know what you don’t know! With my first kid, I followed directly what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended and didn’t serve anything that had any remote trace of added sugars to my little angel until she was over two. Why? Because this is a crucial time for growth and development, and the caloric intake window kids have at this age should be focused on foods that contain nutrients to support this growth period.
Then, I had my second – and they both became toddlers who were introduced to the wide world of delicious sweets, like candies, cookies, and ice creams. I can’t even blame the grandparents fully for this, as I too have a sweet tooth! But, suffice it to say, we learned quickly how to evolve and ensure that while treats like age-appropriate candy were allowed in the house, we provided a well-balanced and variety-filled diet to ensure these types of treats weren’t kept on a pedestal.
As my oldest has grown to love Halloween increasingly more over the years, the candy situation has reached new levels. If you can relate, read on to find out what five pediatric registered dietitians recommend when it comes to managing Halloween candy in their homes!
How Pediatric Nutritionists Recommend Handling Halloween Candy
1. Dani Lebovitz, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDCES, Founder of Kid Food Explorers
Candy is delicious, colorful, and fun, and kids work hard for their bounty by dressing up and trick-or-treating from house to house. My goal with candy is to establish body trust by building kids’ autonomy and helping them develop a healthy relationship with food (and candy!). I give my kids opportunities to eat candy to their hearts’ content and connect what it feels like when they have eaten too much. This approach to candy helps kids learn to self-regulate their intake for a lifetime versus binging when candy becomes accessible.
We also take candy exploration to the next level by making it less about eating and more about making memories together. I love to integrate simple math activities like sorting, counting, graphing, and making patterns with our candy. But our most favorite activity is pretending we are candy critics and taste-testing everything, noticing the different flavors and textures, identifying our favorites, and discarding what we didn’t love. Creating a food-neutral environment around candy makes it feel like just another food – no need to binge or horde!
2. Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN, Creator of Mama Knows Nutrition
It’s challenging to balance what’s best for your child’s physical health with the desire to see them fully enjoy holidays and traditions. I encourage parents to allow children to mindfully enjoy age-appropriate treats by sorting through their candy with them to remove anything unsafe, then allowing them to have several pieces of candy without judging or overly restricting. It’s okay to remind them to listen to their body and go slowly, since too much candy can cause a belly ache. But, they’ll have a healthier relationship with treats in the long-run and avoid becoming obsessed when you avoid comments like, “you’re eating way too much,” or “that’s so bad for you.”
And remember that even a day with TONS of candy will not undo an overall healthy diet!
3. Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN is the Founder of Kids Eat in Color
Candy is one of the joys of childhood. When we help a child fully enjoy candy, without calling it unhealthy or hyping it up, they can have a positive experience.
On Halloween, my family goes trick-or-treating, and when we get home, we sit and enjoy the candy together. The kids choose how much candy to eat, and I model mindful eating by enjoying the candy too! After Halloween, a piece of candy shows up now and then as part of an afternoon snack. Serving candy with food keeps it from becoming a “forbidden fruit” and reduces its impact on blood sugar.
A good relationship with food is as important as a nutritious diet, and enjoying candy on Halloween may be one way your family explores having a good relationship with candy.
4. Ashley Smith, MPH, RD, LD, Pediatric Dietitian and Owner, Veggies & Virtue
It can feel like “all our kids are eating is candy!” this time of year, but that often evokes fear and a feeling that we, as parents, need to restrict. Instead, come up with a strategy for before, during, and after Halloween, and see what traditions around the holiday excite your kids most.
Making these a part of your family’s plan instead of ammo for a parent-child conflict about candy helps you as the parent foster a responsive feeding approach to what, when, and where all foods – candy included – will be available. This emphasizes the importance of safety and structure over sugar.
5. Diana Rice, RD, owner of Tiny Seed Family Nutrition and the Voice Behind @Anti.Diet.Kids
My kids eat Halloween candy all year long! We keep one of our pumpkin buckets in the pantry and top it off with candy from birthday parties, Valentine’s Day, etc. throughout the year. Sometimes they choose it for dessert and other days they’re bored of it and we have something else. I believe it’s important for kids to have this kind of access year-round to candy and other sweets so they can become habituated to these foods.
When we see kids getting fixated on or out of control around candy, it’s because they don’t know how to respond to finally having access to it, and they don’t trust that they’ll have another opportunity to enjoy it. That said, my kids still get super excited about Halloween day! We enjoy as much candy as they want on Halloween night and usually the day or two after. Then, we transition to having a few pieces for a snack or dessert until they’re bored with what remains (usually Tootsie Rolls) and move on to enjoying something else for dessert again.