Halloween Fun, Without the Guilt

Child's hands holding a Halloween Trick or Treat bucket

As a mother of two young boys who love their sweet treats and have proclaimed Halloween as their favourite holiday, mostly because they “get to eat a ton of candy and mommy can’t do anything about it!” (uh.. yeah, she can), this time of year always makes me nervous. All that candy must be terrible for their teeth and overall health.

I considered reaching out to friends and neighbours to suggest we offer up alternative treats to candy this year – such as stickers and temporary tattoos, smelly pencils, or Pokémon cards, but I got some push back from my kids. “NOOO. Halloween is about candy!” they said in protest.

Kids need to learn how much is too much, and Halloween offers a great opportunity for this.

So, to help ease my mind, I reached out to Loreen Wales, a registered dietitian and CEO of Revive Wellness in Edmonton, Alberta, to learn a few other strategies I could use to ensure my kids don’t go overboard with candy this year. In addition to getting some great tips, I also learned that some candy, and the lessons that could come along with it, may not be so bad after all.

Should parents be worried about Halloween candy?
LW: I don’t think parents should be any more concerned about Halloween candy than they are about other treats and junk food at other times of the year. We need to teach our children healthy eating habits and we need to start instilling those habits starting at young age. And by healthy eating habits, I don’t mean teaching our kids to cut treats out of their diet completely — that’s not a good strategy for anyone. Instead, we need to teach them about balanced diets and self-control and  we need to lead by example. Kids need to learn how much is too much, and Halloween actually offers a great opportunity for this. Our goal as parents should be to help our kids create a healthy relationship with food.

As a parent, what’s your strategy?
LW: When they get home from trick-or-treating, I let my children sort through their own candy first and have them remove the treats they don’t like. Thankfully, they usually choose to keep just the chocolate and chips, and get rid of most of the gummy candy. They don’t like it, and neither do I. My children tend to eat a bunch of candy the night of Halloween and I let them do it. They often say “I don’t feel good” afterward, and that’s a good thing. They need to learn for themselves how much is too much so they can self-moderate in the future. After that, we follow the household rule of one treat a day. We sometimes have Halloween candy until Easter.

Is some candy better than other candy?
LW: Absolutely. I recommend people avoid candy with ingredients they can’t pronounce and those that contain food dyes. The gummy candies are the worst. I encourage real food choices. While candy isn’t the most healthful, at least sugar, salt, caramel, chocolate and nuts is actually real food that our body knows how to digest. Chemical ingredients are not natural, so our bodies don’t know how to respond. For this reason, chips and chocolate bars are better choices.

Do you give out candy at Halloween?
LW: Yes, in fact, many of my friends and neighbours are surprised to learn that I give out regular full-sized chocolate bars at Halloween. I used to buy the mini ones, but I found that our family would eat three to four at a time and not think much of it — they’re just little right, so there’s no way it equals one full bar… But the truth is that three to four mini bars are actually equivalent in calories to a regular size bar. Yet we do think twice before we eat an entire regular sized bar, and that pause in consideration is key to self-moderation.

You can read more about Loreen’s full-bar strategy here.

Do you have Halloween candy strategies you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

For more Halloween safety tips, check out our infographic.