Ep 97: Why We Let Our Kids Eat Halloween Candy

Oct 29, 2019


Today we’re talking about Halloween candy. This is especially for those of you who are moms and have wondered how to handle Halloween candy with your kids. If you’ve ever felt like you needed to take away all the candy, felt like the kids were out of control with the candy, or struggled to find a moderate middle ground with the candy, this episode is for you.

There are a lot of different ways and opinions on how you could handle Halloween candy. In this episode we only hope to offer our perspective, as nutrition professionals who work with  individuals with disordered eating patterns and eating disorders as well as a mom of Halloween (and Halloween candy!) lovers.

We all probably know that extremes just don’t seem to work when feeding children. If you’ve tried restricting foods for your kids, you may find that they then lose all sense of moderation when they ARE allowed those foods, and they eat way more than they might otherwise.

You may also have tried the approach of just hoping they figure it out, and having no structure with food, and that doesn’t work either. While kids do have an innate connection with their bodies and a better sense of hunger and fullness that many adults, they still require structure around food. Just like we do!

What we want to help you do is find a moderate middle ground with food in general, for both you and your kids, and to give you some thoughts specifically on Halloween. Halloween is tomorrow (!!) and we know you may be still deciding how to handle candy. Also, as a note, these suggestions we’ll give you today can apply to your kids AND to yourself. Either way, it works. :)

Here is a brief outline the Division of Responsibilities in the parent/child feeding relationship. This is a model developed by Ellyn Satter, RD.

That structure would include having boundaries around when meals and snacks are eaten, while serving and encouraging consumption of a wide variety of foods at each eating event. I do think it’s wise to remember patience with your child as he/she is learning and discovering new foods and to let them learn at their own pace, while trusting them to know how much their body is needing and asking for.

So where does candy, or treats in general, fit in? To be clear, they need to fit. We don’t think it’s realistic to expect our children to go without candy or treats when they will be places all their lives where treats are offered to them.

We could debate about whether they should or shouldn’t be offered treats so often, but that would mean lack of acceptance of reality which can just make you anxious, feel out of control and powerless. We’re much more interested in teaching our kids how to make wise decisions rather than restrict them. 

Also, if they aren’t offered any treats at home and they never learn how to moderate their choices in that safe environment, their behavior could turn chaotic when they finally are able to have it outside of your home.

At some point, all of us need to figure out how to make decisions that are in our best interest.  We don’t do our kids any favors by being overly restrictive and militant OR overly lenient and disinterested. We need to avoid extremes in thinking and behavior, and our kids will learn how to do that from us.

Our goal for our kids, and for you, and all the women we work with, is not to make them super-healthy eaters, but instead confident eaters, built on a foundation of self-trust.

We’ve worked with many adults who wish they had never gone against their own natural intuitive signals in favor of diets or lists of rules. That’s when decisions are made out of restriction, deprivation and fear rather than trust and wisdom.

In fact, current research shows the best treatment for disordered eating behavior is to find a place for all foods in the person’s meals and snacks.  

The assumption is often that if a person has a chaotic relationship with a particular food (in our case for Halloween, candy, but any food can apply!), they should avoid it. We actually find this increases disordered eating behaviors.

Unconditional permission to eat has been shown to decrease preoccupation with food in general. Restriction actually causes chaos, rather than being a solution for it.

When kids know they can have what they want, within the boundaries of meal and snack times where wholesome foods are available as well, it’s more likely they will be able to make a decision which is in their best interest rather than out of fear, deprivation or restriction – just like any adult. While this process will take time and require patience and perseverance (for a child or an adult), it’s well worth the effort to find a peaceful and trusting relationship with food.

The question here isn’t whether candy is healthy or not.  The question here is what approach is effective and helpful. To be honest, there are many times I would much rather see my kids eat something else, but to tell them what to eat just doesn’t achieve what I hope for them.

Parents controlling their child’s food intake only teaches them to rebel against the rules.  Setting a structure for balanced meals and snacks, with treats after meals or as part of snacks if they want them is what we feel is the best approach for our families, and our general recommendation to you.

So we’re going to let our kids keep their Halloween candy.

They will likely eat more than usual on Halloween. They’ll be out having a great time, with an endless supply of candy, and they might even have candy all day, and it will be not a big deal. It’s Halloween, and it’s fine.

Then, they go to bed, and the next day, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming of meals and snacks. We will put it in our candy cupboard for them to enjoy for the weeks to come. 

We’ve found that we can keep ice cream, cookies, or candy in our house for weeks or months without feeling the need to have it all right now, because it’s just not a huge deal.

We don’t have to pay them to give it to us (I’ve done that in the past!), or hide it from them, or convince them that it’s toxic poison for them and try to coerce them into making the “right” choice to not eat it. They can eat it, as much as they want, on Halloween, and then they’ll still have access to it within a normal structure of eating at meal and snack times after Halloween is over. 

We want to have kids who are able to moderate their own food choices, without obsessing, feeling guilty or shameful about food. And the way we handle Halloween candy can be a great start for that.

If you want help in creating more peace and confidence around food this holiday season, for yourself and your kids, we want to invite you to join us for a masterclass we’re teaching on Nov. 1 called 6 Strategies for Feeling Confident With Food Through the Holidays.

This is a paid online class - it will be $20 - and once you sign up, you will guarantee yourself lifetime access to the class (whether you can make it live or not) and the workbook.

The workbook will include a really awesome advent-style calendar with daily self-care prompts you can practice throughout November and December to continue building your food + body confidence throughout the season. 

You can also purchase the self-care calendar on its own for $15, but it is included for free in the workbook that comes with the holiday masterclass.

You can register for the class at eatconfident.co/holidays - you’ll get the ability to come live to the class and the workbook, but we’ll also send you the link to the replay of the class that you can keep forever and watch as many times as you want.

Here is the link to the registration page.

Here is the link to just the self-care calendar (without the workbook + masterclass) in our online shop.

Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Want more of Eat with Confidence?

If you’d like more support + guidance in your process of becoming a Confident Eater, we’re here to help. Learn more about our group coaching program, Eat Confident Collective.

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