It’s that time of the year again, ahhhh, all the Halloween candy!!!!

Here are five tips to manage all the Halloween candy while also fostering a healthy and positive relationship to food. If you are a parent, you know that kids will pick up on our beliefs about food and bodies. When we make Halloween candy a problem, something to feel anxious about, they will also feel this. Instead, let’s embrace this time with all this candy as a teaching opportunity. And, even if you aren’t a parent, the candy is everywhere, right? What was it like when you were a kid, do you remember?

1. Eat a solid meal before you trick or treat: eating candy on an empty stomach is a set up to crave more sugar but not feel satisfied. This is good advice for both parents, kids and everyone. Protect your blood sugars by eating a balanced meal of real food before the candy. This will also reduce the likelihood of overeating on the candy as well. 

 

2. Relax it’s just candy: Candy is demonized too much in our culture. If we express negativity about how “bad” or “unhealthy” these foods are, our kids will pick up on our anxiety and will actually want to eat more (not less)  candy. Lots of research shows that kids who are allowed candy are less likely to overeat it. Halloween is a great opportunity to practice being neutral with food by moving away from ‘good/bad’ food categorizations. Let’s set the tone that it’s ‘just candy’ and that it’s not inherently good nor bad. 

 

3. Focus on listening to the body: Halloween is a great opportunity to practice and model intuitive eating. You can say things like, “If I eat too many snickers, or  jolly ranchers, etc., my tummy will hurt, I think I will save this for later so I can feel good now.” Even if they or yourself get a tummy ache from too much candy, this is learning! You want to send your kids the message that you trust their bodies to tell them when enough is enough. 

 

4. Cultivate and trust your child’s innate ability to self-regulate.  All this Halloween candy is a chance for kids to develop a healthy relationship to food. Just like the relationships we develop with other people, there are stages of trying, exploring, testing the boundaries, seeing what feels good and what doesn’t and then, over time moving into a more natural known rhythm. Your kid will go through these stages with candy as well. Instead of trying to control how much candy they eat, let them explore and find out on their own. They will probably at first eat more but after a few days, you will find that they have moved on to other foods, and eat fewer and fewer pieces of candy over time. Researchers call it, the habituation effect and there is science to back it up. Basically, the more you are exposed to a particular food, the less you desire to eat it. This has been shown for a variety of foods, including potato chips, pizza, and chocolate. Kids need to go through this normative habituation experience. 

 

Child feeding expert Ellyn Satter says:“Halloween candy presents a learning opportunity. Work toward having your child be able to manage their own stash. For them to learn, you will have to keep your interference to a minimum. When they come home from trick or treating, let them lay out their booty, gloat over it, sort it and eat as much of it as they want. Let them do the same the next day. Then have them put it away and relegate it to meal- and snack-time: a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert and as much as they want for snack time.

Despite what most people think, studies show sugar does not affect children’s behavior or cognitive performance.

Allow access to the candy at appropriate time, i.e., dessert and snack time. Practice being neutral with the candy and offering other foods with the candy as well. Research consistently shows that controlling the candy, hiding the candy will create the desire to eat more. When candy is made “forbidden” it plants the seeds of shame and secrecy. Candy becomes something that is emotionally charged and the message to your child is: you and your body cannot be trusted. 

 

5. Encourage joy and celebration with food throughout the year: Life is meant to be celebrated and one important way we can celebrate life is with food. Whether that’s Halloween candy or Christmas cookies, food is joy and food is love. One way we can prevent future eating disorders is to normalize celebrating with special foods and to normalize that these foods don’t need to be avoided or controlled. No need to feel guilty for eating one “too many” cookies at the party or feeling in control by avoiding them.  Let’s model how to eat in a connected and positive way that feels good and that is inherently more sustainable. Trust that the body knows when enough is enough. 

Halloween and all the Holidays that involve food which there are many, are opportunities to practice and teach your kids how to become competent intuitive eaters. Remember your subtle messages about food are powerful and kids are always paying attention (for better and for worse!) If you communicate distrust of a food yourself or tend to want to simplify food as ‘good or bad’, your child will notice and that food will gain power over them. 

According to Virgina Sole Smith,  “Don’t get too hung up on managing the candy. Instead ask yourself, did I give them enough access, and enough time to really enjoy this experience?”

“Letting your child explore food is an exercise in managing your own anxiety and parenting shame. You are not bad or wrong if your child eats candy. But you may be anxious as you watch them fondle or even tear open those packages. Remind yourself that this is temporary, which is one of the best parenting mantras of all time. “ from my mentors Hilary and Dana at The Center for Body Trust.

If you or your child is struggling with food and body image, reach out to me now! I would love to support you in finding peace and freedom from food and weight worries, book a free call with me here

p.s. Happy Halloween!

Much love, Karen Louise 

Article inspired by: Hilary & Dana at Center for Body Trust https://centerforbodytrust.com/lets-talk-halloween-candy/

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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