It’s Okay To Let Your Kids Indulge in Sweets This Halloween
One night of extra candy won’t hurt kids, but negative talk about it can lead to unhealthy food relationships.
By Tanay Howard
Parents are gearing up for what is arguably the sweetest holiday for our kiddos: Halloween. After spending way too many hours collecting and sorting mountains of candy, we arrive at the next phase of trick-or-treating: the following few hours—or days—when our children would rather eat the treasure they collected than actual meals. And while we want to make sure our children are getting the proper nutrition, it’s okay to let them indulge in the fruits of their labor so to speak. They’ve spent all that time collecting the candy, parents; it’s okay to let them eat it.
Allergens and safety reasons aside, I know as a parent I’ve spent way too much time trying to make my children forget the Halloween candy ever even existed. We worry about health and cavities and a whole host of other things. But projecting those fears onto our children can actually do them more harm than good.
Negative food associations can lead to unhealthy food relationships and negative eating behaviors. Research has shown that when certain foods are “restricted” or “forbidden,” children often have difficulty controlling the amount of food they consume when the restricted food is present. This results in behaviors such as overeating and eating in the absence of hunger. In short, this method can oftentimes be counterproductive to the parent’s actual goal.
“Our society places a moral value on food as good or bad and research demonstrates that adults can develop feelings of shame and guilt with excessive eating which is not what we want to pass on to our children,” Philadelphia clinical dietician Yorine Belizaire, MS RD told Parents. “We do not want our children to internalize the idea that eating bad foods makes them bad. Talking with our kids about moderation, the nutrition components of food and giving them permission to enjoy all foods is essential in helping them develop healthy relationships with food as adults.”
And don’t be so quick to hide the candy or threaten to throw it away. From personal experience this leads to sneaking food. No parent wants to clean their child’s room to find a stash of Snickers wrappers under the bed. The goal should be to provide our kids with a safe space to enjoy themselves and not fear that they won’t be able to eat anything that they like.
There are ways that we can talk to our children about enjoying their Halloween treats (or anything really) while also avoiding negative feelings around their consumption. “Parents can monitor their language,” Belizaire suggests. “Instead of saying ‘don’t eat too much, that’s bad for you’ we can speak directly to the concern ‘eating six caramels before bed is not healthy for your teeth’ or ‘eat all of those Skittles and you’ll won’t have room at breakfast for foods that give you energy.'”
Another method recommended by Belizaire is explaining to your children in an age appropriate manner the difference between everyday foods and celebratory foods. “There are foods that nourish our bodies that we need daily. However there are other foods that we eat less often for pleasure or celebrations such as Halloween candy or birthday cake.”
Eating candy, even in large amounts, actually won’t harm our children. The important thing is to be honest with them and use language absent of negativity and body or fat shaming. “Parents should recognize that demonizing Halloween candy can send a conflicting message.” Belizaire reminded Parents. “If these foods are so awful, why is collecting a bag of it something presented as fun?”