We’re all about Halloween in our house. My girls love all the fun Halloween activities, they love picking out their costumes and dressing up, and they love, love all the candy.
I don’t know about you, but I love candy. Twix bars, Reese’s Cups, M&Ms (of any variety) – I am a big fan. And as a pediatric dietitian, I want my kids to explore and love all foods, too – yes, even candy.
As parents, we want our kids to grow up healthy and strong and have a positive relationship with food. And while candy may not be the most nutrient dense food out there, I believe it still has its place in a balanced diet.
So how can we make sure our kids enjoy Halloween and all the candy that comes with it, without going overboard?
Here are some tips for navigating candy this Halloween in a way that keeps it food-neutral, body-positive, and most importantly, fun!
Try letting them eat as much Halloween candy as they want
I know it may be tempting to want to limit how much candy they eat, but I actually encourage you to let them try eating as much as they want. Why? Because when we tell our kids they can’t have something, it often backfires and makes them want it even more.
Part of developing a positive relationship with food is to treat all foods equally. You can help your kiddos develop a healthy relationship with food (and candy) by allowing them to enjoy without the feelings of restriction, lectures, or guilt, and listen to their own bodies. Not only does this build lifelong trust in self-regulating candy consumption, it also creates a food-neutral environment making candy feel like just another food – no need to binge or horde!
So don’t be afraid to let them have “too much” every now and then. One day of too much candy isn’t going to make or break their nutrition and it can teach them valuable lessons on how to self-regulate. I recommend occasionally prompting them with questions about how their body feels and doing a happy tummy or belly ache check.
“Is your tummy happy?” or “Did you eat too much, and now you have a belly ache?”
This helps them get in touch with their own body cues so they can understand what having too much feels like. It also helps them feel empowered, gives them more autonomy, and allows them to grow more confident in their food choices!
Instead of making candy off-limits, let them enjoy it and have as much as they want. Then, once the candy is gone, it’s gone.
Of course, if your child has any food allergies, be sure to check the labels on the candy before letting them eat it. And if your child is younger than 4 years old, avoid candy that is a choking hazard such as hard candy, taffy, and carmel!
Learn how to limit candy without vilifying it
It’s not always about what you say, it’s about what kids hear.
A food-neutral approach isn’t about allowing your kids to eat candy non-stop for days on end. But it is about helping them consciously learn to enjoy all foods while also listening to their bodies. And sometimes this will require you to intervene and set some boundaries. But that can be hard to do without making candy seem like a “bad” food or an “unhealthy” food.
Changing your phrasing to empathetic and positive wording can help with presenting candy neutrally. This supports your kids in establishing a healthy relationship with food and building lifelong body trust around candy. Plus, it can help prevent a meltdown when they *feel* like they have more access to their hard-earned candy.
Here are some ways I’ll have this conversation with my girls when they want more candy and they’ve had a lot already:
🌟 How do you feel?
🌟 What is your tummy telling you?
🌟 You can have that candy but I am afraid you will have a belly ache and we won’t be able to enjoy the festival later today or we won’t be able to play with friends if you aren’t feeling well.
🌟 Should we/let’s wait until later today to enjoy more.
🌟 I hate having a belly ache from too much candy, it ruins my fun.
Use Halloween candy as a way to explore new foods
There’s so much variety when it comes to Halloween candy. It’s a great way to explore new tastes and textures with your kids. Not only is this a fun activity to do together as a family, it encourages kids to slow down and focus on the food itself, versus the excitement of Halloween or getting to eat candy.
To do a simple Halloween candy taste test, gather a few different types of candy and have your kids taste each one. As they’re tasting, ask them to notice the different flavors, textures, and smells. You can invite them to be a candy “judge” and make a game out of it.
Our Food Explorer Mats are a great way to engage them in this activity and work on their fine motor skills in the process.
You can also have them rate each candy on a scale of 1-5 or however you want to do it. It’s a fun activity that helps start a conversation about likes and dislikes, and gets kids thinking a little bit more about the foods they’re eating.
Do fun things with the Halloween candy that doesn’t necessarily involve eating it
Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday. Kids work hard to earn all that candy! And sometimes all that excitement can cause my girls to go a little overboard with their candy consumption. They get so excited that they don’t listen to body cues.
I’ve found that doing activities with their candy that don’t necessarily involve eating it can be immensely helpful in giving them an outlet for their excitement and energy.
Help your kiddos celebrate their candy stash with some fun games, like a candy toss into their trick-or-treat bucket, make your own candy necklace, or build a candy tower! You can even weave in some math for all ages from simple counting, to addition/subtraction, to copying patterns, or turning your candy into a graph!
The options are really endless, and it’s a fun way to get creative with your kids while still celebrating all that candy. And when they’re done playing, they can always come back and eat more later.
Halloween is a great time to let your kids indulge in some candy. But it’s also an excellent opportunity to teach them about balance, moderation, and being mindful of their bodies. With a little planning and creativity, you can turn Halloween candy into a fun learning experience for the whole family!