Halloween Survival Guide

This might just be my kids’ favorite day of the year.  Dressing up in costumes, collecting candy, staying up late, checking out all the neighbors’ decorations, did I mention candy?

As parents, we might not love it quite as much.  First, we have to go to the store, or help our little ones find the perfect costume online, in what seems like a multiple hour quest. Then, it’s time to decorate and buy all that candy to give out.  Then, there’s the fact that our kids start to obsess about the candy and how much they can collect, and EAT!!

Here’s my plan to get through Halloween (and the following days) without feeling like all your kids are eating are artificial colors and sugar.

  1. Put it in perspective. You really do a pretty awesome job of offering varied, wholesome foods to your kids on most days, right?  Give yourself a pat on the back for that!
  2. Plan a protein-rich dinner or grab and go snack for pre Trick-or-Treating. Get them nourished with some whole foods so they are not so hungry that they are eating a dinner of candy.  Depending on your child’s age or temperament, a sit-down meal might not be in the cards after school because they are so excited to get their costumes on and get going.  Below are some ideas for mini-meals or actual meals that will help fill them up before you head out for the evening.
  3. The Aftermath: While it’s tempting to put all sorts of rules around your child’s loot, I urge you to avoid making the candy forbidden fruit because that will only increase your child’s obsession with it.  Instead, treat it like any other snack. Check out  Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for more information.
  • Have set meals and snack times. Candy is fair game then when you see fit.
  • Provide varied meals and be sure to include something you know they like at each meal.
  • No eating between these meals and snack times
  • Let your child self-regulate and learn from their eating experiences without judgment from you. It’s better for them to learn what eating too much chocolate feels like and putting that information in their memory bank, rather than having them push past their limits just to assert their independence with you.
  • No food in their bedrooms, and that includes candy!
  • Meals (including candy) should be eaten while sitting down without distraction. Eating is a sensory experience and paying attention to the experience is critical to learn what your body wants and needs.
  1. If you take a more laid back approach, using these guidelines, you will find that the obsession with candy decreases. If you often have lots of food rules, it will take major effort to bite your tongue and not judge your child’s intake.  But, as our children grown and mature, they need and want to assert their independence. Stifling that developmentally-appropriate growth through micromanaging their intake often backfires.
  2. Remember, that children want to be happy and feel good. If you set the stage (or in this case, table) for them, you are doing your part help them grow and learn what their bodies need.
  3. I highly recommend reading one of Ellyn Satter’s books on childhood feeding or check out her website here: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org