♫ This is Halloween. This is Halloween. This is Halloween. ♫
Well…as of tomorrow, anyway.
This bewitching occasion for both the young and young-at-heart is marked by ghosts and goblins, pirates and princesses, superheroes and starlets traipsing around the block together, chanting that quintessential phrase — “trick-or-treat!”
Undoubtedly, Halloween represents a childhood rite-of-passage, filled with excitement, fantasy, mischief…
And, of course, sugar.
Otherwise known as the kids’ main motivation for dressing up. That haul of Skittles, Twizzlers and Milky Ways, which they’ll triumphantly drag home then ceremoniously dump on the kitchen floor, might just be their favorite part of the whole evening. But, as a parent, excessive candy consumption is likely your biggest complaint.
So, how can you keep your children from wolfing down unhealthy amounts of refined sugar without squelching their innocent fun? These pointers will do the trick! (See what I did there?)
1. Sort the pieces of candy into small piles (about four–five apiece) and transfer each grouping into a snack-sized Ziploc bag. Store these bags out of reach until the weekend. Then, give your kids a sweet treat to enjoy on Friday movie night, or pass out individual “goodie bags” during their Saturday sleepover. If you associate candy with special occasions, they won’t crave the cavity-causing sugar on a daily basis.
2. Start a rewards system, so candy becomes a sweet incentive rather than TV-watching “junk food.” Let’s say your kids received stellar report cards in the classroom, or completed their chore charts with minimal protest. Recognize these achievements by handing over a chocolate bar as positive reinforcement. Use the treats to motivate exemplary behavior — both at home and school.
3. Combine a handful of candy with healthy snack alternatives. Add M&Ms to pistachios, pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes for a wholesome trail mix. Bake dark chocolate into zucchini bread, or serve alongside sliced apples and almond butter. Drizzle melted caramel chews over whole-grain oatmeal or poached pears. Therefore, kids can satisfy that sweet tooth, while you sneak nutrients in their diet.
4. Avoid stockpiling the Halloween candy stash over a long period. Cut down on those trick-or-treating leftovers by purging your house after a couple weeks. Surprise co-workers with a peppermint jar in the break room. Include Hershey squares in care packages for a neighbor or the kids’ teachers. Sweeten up holiday get-togethers with party favors for each guest. Chances are, as the Halloween novelty wears off, your little ones won’t even notice the missing candy right away.
Of course, sugary indulgence is part of childhood, so I’m not suggesting you deny them altogether. Parents should encourage kids to be…well, kids. The key word is MODERATION.
Provided your children aren’t over-stuffing themselves on Halloween goodies, there’s no reason to micromanage. Simply offset those empty calories by serving balanced nutrition at meal times.
After all, even the youngsters will probably concede that fresh vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains are more substantial in the long-run than a temporary sugar high or quick-fix craving. So, let ’em have their thrills. Just make sure it’s within predetermined boundaries.