Dietitian and mom Christine Berman dishes out tips for handling the Halloween candy conundrum.
In one family I know, the rule on Halloween is that the children can collect all the candy they want while trick-or-treating, but they must throw away everything they haven't eaten by the end of the evening. In another family, the children are allowed a piece or two a day until the candy is gone.
These are just two examples of how parents cope with the prospect of children overdosing on holiday goodies. Many parents who make great efforts to feed their children well face a yearly double whammy in October. First, the question of how much of that stuff in the trick-or-treat bags to let the kids eat, and second, what to give as treats—candy? pencils? stickers? And Halloween is just the first event in a round of holiday celebrations that lasts for several months (a period, incidentally, when the average American puts on a few extra pounds and feels guilty for losing control). No wonder just thinking about it makes us a tad anxious.
As a dietitian—and a mother—I will tell you that eating a lot of candy over a few days' time will not ruin your child's health if he has been otherwise eating well, assuming there are no bona fide medical reasons for avoiding sugar, chocolate and so on. There is no evidence that gorging on Halloween candy for a few days will turn him into a candy-craving machine the rest of the year or the rest of his life. And, though like most nutrition issues this one is still under debate, there is little evidence that sugar causes the majority of children to behave badly, even at pretty high doses (a lot of sugar on an empty stomach may be a different story). Your child may be the exception, but it's rare.
Does this mean I advocate a sugar free-for-all in every household between October and New Year's? Absolutely not! I am genuinely concerned about the quantities of sugar many children eat throughout the year, for several reasons (enough to devote a separate article to it). But for families who generally eat well and worry that the holidays may spin the situation out of control, here are some tips for dealing with the stress around holiday treats: