For Moms that aim to feed their children healthy, natural and unprocessed foods, Halloween can be a real nightmare. Each year, I cringe at the vast amounts of highly processed candy that my children bring home, and wonder what is the best way to deal with all this sugar? It feels like all of my efforts to feed them food without artificial coloring, flavoring and hydrogenated fats are undone in one night.
Last month, I received my copy of Fed Up the movie, which details the problems with the US food industry, focusing on its use of sugar. One of the doctors consulted in the movie stated that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, a statement proved by brain scan images. This has made me dread the influx of candy even more.
As Halloween approaches us, we at Reno Moms Blog thought it would be interesting to ask local experts how they deal with Halloween candy, or what they would recommend. I also asked my friend, Aspen Kuhlman, to submit, as her approach to Halloween candy has really stayed with me and makes a lot of sense after watching Fed Up the movie.
Dr. Helen Gray, Family Medicine Physician with Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and mother of four
Halloween… That special holiday where my kids revel in getting dressed up and more importantly getting free candy. The interesting dynamic to this holiday is that I, wanting to make sure I get full use of their costumes, take them to multiple trick or treat events. You’d think I would have figured out that more events equal more candy. But my more frugal side beats out my reasonable side every year and we end up with POUNDS of candy. So how do I handle it? We typically return home and dump al all the candy onto the table. I sort out all the questionable candy (and let’s not lie, I take out my favorite pieces so that no little hands can beat me to it). The night of the event I let them it 2-3 pieces. Then throughout the month, I allow them to have one piece of candy for dessert after dinner (and occasionally after lunch or in their lunch bags for school). I typically fill a gallon sized zip lock bag with candy to keep at the house and any excess beyond that gets taken into work where it usually gets eaten up within the week. I usually don’t allow more than that ziplock bag amount of candy to be around. Over the years I’ve l learned that the bag had needed to be placed higher and higher up the pantry shelves as kids get older and more savvy to where the treats are located but overall this has been a good balance for my household to allow my kids some treats without overloading them with massive amounts of unnecessary sugar.
Dr. Frank Caffaratti, dentist at Caffarti Dentist Group and father
While an excessive amount of sugar is never good for children’s teeth (or adults for that matter), even dentists know that candy consumption is likely inevitable this time of year. You can help protect your kids’ teeth by monitoring what, and how much, they are eating and reminding them to ramp up their oral care. Ensure your kids are brushing their teeth at least twice a day, for at least two minutes at a time. (Hint: find a song your child loves that is at least two minutes long and have them play it each time they brush. Dancing is optional!) Remember that children need help brushing their teeth until at least age 8, and flossing until age 10. Some good indicators that your child can manage a toothbrush on his or her own are the ability to write in cursive, tie shoes in a double knot and/or button a shirt.
It’s always wise to place a specific limit on how much sugar your children can eat each day and encourage healthy snack options. If you’re encouraging your kids to keep only a portion of the candy they collect, consider this when helping them choose what to keep: The worst candy offenders are anything chewy or sticky (caramels, gummies, taffy) because they get stuck in the crevices of the teeth and can lead to cavities; sour candy because the acid content can break down tooth enamel quickly; hard candies and lollipops that stay in the mouth for an extended period of time and lead to decay; and high-sugar choices like candy corn, cupcakes and cookies. Better candy options are sugar-free suckers, sugar-free hard candies and sugar-free gum, which can actually prevent cavities as it increases saliva and dislodges food from between the teeth. Surprisingly, plain chocolate is also a good choice because it melts quickly. Instead of just throwing out excess candy, I love the idea of promoting sharing. Whether it’s sending candy to the troops, making cookies or brownies with leftover candy to be given to friends and neighbors, or donating candy to a local shelter or soup kitchen, the message of giving is a great segue into the holiday season.
Clara Mitchell, Parenting Coach,owner of The Parent Co. and mother of two
That’s a great question because so many parents are troubled by the enormous amount of Halloween candy that gets passed around every October. I recommend that parents ask their children how they think their family should deal with all of the candy. Kids are incredibly creative with win-win solutions and you might be surprised at the ideas they come up with. Most kids know how bad candy is for their health. It’s irresistible and addictive but they know it’s not good for their bodies and brains. If they don’t, this is a great opportunity to teach them basic label reading.
Some families may have great success with the Switch Witch where a witch comes the day after Halloween and takes the candy, leaving a gift behind. Others might want to choose one candy a day for the first week, then throw the rest out. Certain families might feel best donating candy to the troops, or to a charitable organization, while others may organize a potluck gathering with friends in lieu of going door to door. What’s important is getting your kids involved in the decision making. You’ll find them much more willing to cooperate with the agreed upon solutions when they’ve had a say in the outcome.
When I was growing up I was free to eat my entire bucket of Halloween candy in a day. My older sister and I would combine our tasty treats inside the largest bowl in the house and consume the entire thing by lunch. I’m not totally sure if this was because we were candy-crazed or if each of us wanted to have their fair share of our favorite candies before the other one ate them all up.
When my daughter partook in her first Halloween, as you can imagine she received a ton of candy. At 3 years old, a ton of candy can be scary to a mother. Do you let her eat it one piece at a time over the course of the year? Do you let her have some that night and then confiscate the rest? Or do you let her have a few pieces each day until they are gone? It got me thinking about the free for all my sister and I were able to indulge in each year and I wanted that to also be a possibility. Because sugar is an addictive substance, I also didn’t want a long term dependency of candy instilled in my child, which I saw as a possibility when the matter of doling the candy out day by day arose. Not to mention the possibility of cavities due to the daily candy intake.
So in the end, each year my daughter gets the pleasure of having Halloween night and the entire next day to binge on her Halloween candy. She can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner but after day two the candy goes away and I usually end day two feeling pretty good about the whole thing. It’s so cute watching the excitement in her eyes, each year, with the prospect of eating it all only to see her be defeated every time by the realization that candy makes for a very poor choice in all day eating adventures.
Join the conversation! Which approach resonates with you? How do you plan to deal with the overload of candy?
RMB Recommends FedUp The Movie. Join the movement!