I love candy. I loved it as a kid and still do. It’s my nutritional Achilles heel. But it’s not good for you or your kids. The problem is that there is an entire holiday surrounding it and what to do with it. So what should you do? My advice, come up with a plan. Know the recommendations, know the risks, then decide what’s best for you and your family.
Official recommendations on how much sugar
The American Heart Association (with the AAP supporting the guidelines) says that children should not have more than 6 teaspoons (25 gms) of sugar a day. That’s not much (think 16 candy corns, 5 suckers, 2.5 Reeses Peanut Butter cups, 1.5 Snickers, 0.5 bag of Skittles). The average kid consumes more than 3 times that amount (on regular days, not Halloween and the days following). It’s no secret that too much sugar can lead to obesity, elevated blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. So despite my love for candy, it’s something I need to address (both for me and my kids) with a plan.
Halloween day plan
- Eat dinner before trick or treating (fuller bellies will be less inclined to eat too much candy).
- Only allow candy to be eaten at home (where you can monitor what and how much) not on the trick or treat trail.
- Make your child walk, don’t chauffer them to houses. The exercise is good for them and will reduce the total number of houses your child can get to.
- Limit your trick or treating to neighborhoods you know.
- Set an ending time.
- Make children trick or treat with someone else. (In our case, one parent takes the all the children…and being told “wait for your sister,” slows the process down so we end up with less candy).
- Support the cause by giving out something other than candy (This year I’m giving out glow-in-the-dark bouncy balls and punch balloons that I got for a deal online).
- Set a limit ahead of time on the total number of pieces of candy on Halloween day (I’ve done everywhere from 5-15 in years past).
What to do with the post Halloween haul
I’ve heard all sorts of good ideas over the years. Here’s a few you can choose from.
- Daily limit. Slowly dole out the candy with a daily limit (e.g., the child is allowed to have 1-5 candies a day).
- Donate extra candy. Depending on where you live, there are all sorts of different options. Some dentists have a donation or buy back program. Many shelters will take extra candy (you can have your children help separate them into little bags that make distributing it easier). I’ve also heard of programs that send candy to troops overseas.
- Bake goodies. Many candies can be frozen and used later in cookies, brownies, and cake recipes.
- Candy art. Have a family night competition where everyone gets to use the candy and toothpicks to make artistic creations (you could even chose a competition theme like best candy house, funniest monster, etc.).Give out awards. Take pics, then pitch the art (candy) later.
- The Switch Witchery. I once read in Parents magazine an article about the “Switch Witch” (like a tooth fairy) who comes on her broom stick in the night and takes the entire bag candy, but leaves a toy or prizes in return. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds interesting. Apparently it works best when the child is prepped days in advance. In theory, the child is happy with the new toy and voila, the candy problem is gone.
- Reuse the candy. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I have used my kids Halloween candy to fill a piñata and grab bags for my son’s birthday (which happens to be just after Halloween). It solves two problems, I don’t have to buy more candy and it gets rids of all of the extra Halloween candy.
- Parent Tax. Last, but not least, my self-serving favorite (did I mention I love candy), the parent tax. I use some lame reasoning like, “I bought your costume, paid for treats to hand out, and took you around,” so that entitles me to whatever candy of yours I want to eat at any time. I say it ‘tongue in cheek,’ my kids put up a fake fight, and they consent to sharing. It’s a win-win scenario.
Have a safe and healthy Halloween!