The countdown is on to all the Halloween festivities, but all that candy can take a toll on kiddies’ health and parents’ mental health as they try to curb the sugar intake.
According to NielsenWire, the latest statistics show that Americans buy nearly 600 million pounds of candy during the Halloween season. That boils down to about 1.9 pounds of candy per person. Sugar, the primary ingredient in all good candy, has little nutritional value and can negatively impact a person’s mood and energy level, increase hyperactivity and is highly addictive. Why all the attraction to something so bad for us? Because it’s good; it’s abundant. We view it as part of every celebration, and during Halloween, candy tastes better than at any other time of the year!
Regardless of what our taste buds are telling us to do, with obesity and diabetes on the rise, not to mention the scare from the dentist, parents need to limit candy consumption without eliminating it. One of the biggest mistakes that parents make during Halloween is not teaching balance and moderation when it comes to holiday candy and intake. Parents who view sweets as treats at a time of indulgence such as Halloween or Christmas, are setting an expectation. They are sending the message that candy is for special times, not every day. The tricky part is getting the kiddies on board, and while there is no magic potion, here are my wicked good tips:
Teach kids to leave room for the candy and not overeat during mealtime.
Practice moderation of sweet intake during holidays. Parents who micromanage intake may end up with a child who overcompensates by sneaking candy or overeating any chance he gets.
Use judgment and moderation to help children participate in the holiday festivities and still be healthy and safe. Regardless of whether a child has a weight issue, is a diabetic, or has a mental or physical disability, because they are a child, they will want some candy for Halloween and at the holidays.
Teach and practice mindful eating before Halloween and the other food-indulgent holidays! This means asking children to be aware of their hunger levels when they eat sweets. Use a 1-5 rating scale to help them quantify their hunger. Once they admit they want to eat when they are not hungry, it will signal parents to teach them how to distract themselves during periods of sweet cravings. This helps children who have food issues regulate their eating every day of the year.
Plan to reduce the size of their candy bag or limit the number of houses they hit.
Allow a child to eat the candy until it’s gone as their regular intake of sweets, not in addition to the treats they take in daily. As part of this, teach kids to leave room for the candy, instead of eating huge meals and still going after the candy.
Allow the kids to indulge right after trick-or-treat the night of Halloween and then limit their intake to a certain number of pieces a day. For example, one with lunch, one with an after-school snack and one after dinner.
For overweight children, try to focus on a certain type of candy, such as hard candy or candy like a lollipop, that will last longer and tends to be lower in calories.
Diabetic children also will want to have some candy. Parents of diabetic children report that if they practice moderation, they have more cooperation and less resistance and sneaking behavior than if they insist on total abstinence. This is the same for overweight children.
Some parents like to store candy in the freezer or fridge. When it’s colder, it’s more difficult to eat it fast and may be less tasty.
Recognize that when baby sitters or indulgent relatives are caretakers, the candy is more likely to come out. Rather than convince these caregivers how it’s not good to overindulge, the best thing is to remove it when they are in charge, rather than delegate this decision to them.
Share the candy by giving it to the troops abroad. Many local dentists have candy drop-offs and send it out to troops.
Have the Halloween Pumpkin or Witch exchange the candy left under the pillow for a quarter per piece of candy. The kids will make money instead of cavities! Or if a child is very overweight, consider talking directly about candy being against the goal of weight reduction and buy it back with a goal of doing something active and fun with the money.
Be a role model by limiting your own Halloween candy intake and eliminating leftover candy from your stash immediately.
Essex resident Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to www.drkateroberts.com, www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRoberts or www.pinterest.com/DrKateParenting.