This time of year, social media feeds are buzzing with ways you can secretly (or not so secretly) limit how much Halloween candy your kids eat. Admittedly, there was a time when my own strategy involved swapping candy for a toy, eating it myself (my husband was a willing accomplice!) or even throwing it away.
As my kids have grown, however, I've changed my tune a bit. And what I've come to focus on are the ways that a holiday like Halloween can serve as a valuable opportunity for our family to talk about mindful eating and what it means to eat in moderation.
Now, obviously for babies and toddlers, these messages need to be adapted. But the heart of the message still holds: you can use Halloween as a chance to enjoy sweet foods together, while also talking about the importance of making healthy choices and developing a deeper understanding of everything that you eat.
With that in mind, here are 4 reasons you should let your kids eat Halloween candy:
1. It's something you can enjoy together.
From choosing costumes, to selecting the candy your family will give out, to mapping your door-to-door route, Halloween offers so many opportunities for you to connect with your kids; to spend intimate time planning and creating. It's also a great way for you to connect to your past, and to share those stories with your kids. Did you make your own costumes? Did you trick or treat with family or friends? What was your favorite candy then and what is it now?
Rituals like this help kids build security, identity, and belonging by creating shared memories and building family relationships. (Plus, there’s probably some candy in it for you!)
2. You can use it to explore textures and flavors.
We’ve previously written about the power of building kids' vocabulary to describe the foods they are eating. With something like candy - which kids are usually naturally willing to taste - it makes introducing concepts of texture and flavor a little easier. Terms like salty, caramely, velvety, crunchy, peanutty, malty, chewy, and hard are brought to into full relief by the Milky Way, Snickers, Tootsie Rolls, starburst, Reesie‘s, M&Ms, and Milk Duds that fill their candy basket. And you can extend those lessons by making comparisons between those flavors and textures in their favorite candy to the other foods they try. Need some help thinking about all the ways you can describe a food? Check out our list of 100 descriptive terms for mealtime!
3. It's a chance to practice making healthy choices.
If you have spent any amount of time on this blog, you’ll know that we do not believe in “bad foods”. Labeling foods that way puts too much pressure on people to be perfect, demonizes individual foods (when it’s really our whole diet and eating behavior that we should be concerned with), and doesn’t leave space for people to enjoy all foods in a healthy way.
But we are also firm believers in the fact that there are some foods that are better suited to helping your body be its best self: there are some foods that are better "all the time" or "often" choices, while others should remain "sometimes" foods. Even this simplified language can be easily understood by toddlers and describing foods in this way has the benefit of not project any judgement on the food itself.
What are the practical implications of these beliefs, and what is their relevance to Halloween candy? Having candy in the house opens up the opportunity for you to talk about what candy does for the body, about how eating too much candy feels, about what’s missing from candy that others foods provide, and it gives you and your kids the chance to practice making decisions about how much sugar to eat. It give you the opportunity to practice eating “often” foods in moderation.
4. Candy is obviously sugar (unlike other foods).
One of the things I secretly appreciate about candy is that it is exactly what you think it is. It is sugar: simple carbs with a other ingredients thrown into the mix. (When you see a package of Twizzlers in the check out line you’re not left thinking “oh, maybe that’s packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals!”) Candy is not trying to be something it’s not. And occasionally having candy (out added sugar in any other form) is not in and of itself bad. When it becomes problematic is when you think your making a healthy choice and then learn that the totality of your choices add up to sugar overload.
So many of the foods we believe are “good foods” are actually filled with various sources of sugar that are hidden in plain sight. Pasta sauce, yogurt, condiments, commercially baked breads, Ready to eat cereals, and canned soups are just a few of the places where sugar is hidden but ubiquitous. And it’s the totality of eating all of this added sugar broadly - not Halloween candy specifically - that is the problem. So rather than denying candy entirely, you can carefully read the ingredient lists to find hidden sources of sugar and make choices that limit those.