how we deal with halloween candy in our home

October 29, 2014

halloween goodiesHappy October! It’s Ben here. Ruby asks me to write about how we approach eating healthfully in our family, so here’s how we address Halloween candy with our kids.

You might think with being a dietitian, candy and anything “lo-nu” (what True started calling low nutrition foods a few years back) would be forbidden. Before I speak about that, I wanted to visit what may seem like petty semantics. We’ve learned not to refer to foods as good or bad, but rather, identify them based on their nutrient density. We’ll instead classify them as a high nutrition (hi-nu) food or low nutrition (lo-nu) food. All foods can be consumed within the context of balance and moderation. Furthermore, there’s no need to associate guilt/shame with a food traditionally labeled as “bad.” We strive to teach them how to make healthful choices, and how to recognize what is high nutrition versus low nutrition in our home.

So how do we address the lo-nu Halloween candy? We intentionally allow the kids eat all they want. Yup, you read that correctly. It’s a part of the approach we’ve adopted from dietitian and psychotherapist Ellyn Satter. We’re still learning how to best integrate what seems to be a very liberal strategy when it comes to “forbidden foods” like these after Halloween is over, so we go at our own pace as we continue to experiment with these principles. One of the goals is that kids won’t over-indulge/binge when parents aren’t around. The six of us are learning together; that’s parenting though.

When it comes to how we answer the “Trick or Treat!” request at the door, there was a study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior that helped form our decision in what we give out. Researchers offered kids aged 3-14 the option of candy vs. a Halloween toy. Half of them chose the toys… an interesting perspective on how many kids define “treat” on Halloween. Since there’s already enough candy being circulated around that night, we’ve opted for inexpensive toys. And for individuals challenged with weight or other conditions in which mindful candy-eating principles are welcome, this is a nice strategy for removing candy in the home that could be mindlessly consumed!

Have a safe and mindful Halloween!


10 comments on “how we deal with halloween candy in our home”

  • Great post, Ben! This is actually a wonderful idea. We don’t eat candy very much as family, and with a toddler, I hardly let her have any (so she won’t be bouncing off the walls). I would love to start swapping “lo-nu” treats for toys or something similar. It’s a good thing I haven’t even bought halloween candy yet 🙂

  • Emmy A says:

    This is a great idea. My oldest has a peanut allergy and any holiday with candy makes me panic a little bit since he’s only 4 and doesn’t really understand what is ok and what isn’t, especially in regard to cross-contamination. A friend of mine is giving out tattoos and stickers, and I so appreciate her thinking of an alternative. As far as how we handle all the candy, I usually pick out some candy for my kids to have and put the rest away…out of sight, out of mind. So far that has been a great strategy, but I know it’s really only working now because my kids are only 2 and 4. When you let your kids eat as much as they want, is it just on that one day or until it’s all gone? Just curious.

    • Rubyellen says:

      We let them go to town the first night for about an hour, until it got too late. We did it again last night, and they’ll probably get another chance later today. Ben cringes inside knowing their putting all this “low-nu” in, but we do believe this will help them moderate themselves, and not feel like they need to sneak behind our backs later.

  • Lalie says:

    We had that version when I was a kid in which we were each totally responsible for our own candy stash. In our family it worked well. It’s also a great learning experience, depending on the years we’ve experienced everything: eating it all quickly and seeing our siblings still have some later, exchanging our favorites, losing interest and finding the rest of the candies in the bag months later, etc. I mean, yes that’s a lot of candy to get in one night, but in a way it was also proportional with age since we wouldn’t go trick or treating as long at 4 or at 9. None of the 3 of us ever got sick on Halloween candies.

  • Crease says:

    Nice to see a scientific study cited in a lifestyle blog 🙂 this sounds like a great approach, will keep in in mind for possible future babies. I think this blog is a lovely family effort.

    • Rubyellen says:

      Thank you so much! I agree, I love that my husband included a scientific study. It is refreshing since all of us lifestyle blogs talk like we know this or that, but mostly our own thoughts though, so to have something scientific to back up what he’s sharing was great!

  • Kat Chavez says:

    This is so well put. I love this, “We’ll instead classify them as a high nutrition (hi-nu) food or low nutrition (lo-nu) food. All foods can be consumed within the context of balance and moderation.” I am training to be a nutrition coach and this is a great way to look at foods. I do not like the idea of saying you can’t have something, everything in moderation is my philosophy. And we do the same with Halloween, we pass out toys and the kids collect candy. We actually let them gorge the first night which usually results in some natural consequences and then they keep their favorites and donate the rest. Thank you

  • Frédérique says:

    Thanks for this great post Ben! This is how I was raised. I never cared for sweets that much, and neither did my sisters. I think it was a result of not being limited in our access to them. We had to be hungry for meals though, my parents would be very sad having spent (usually a lot of) time cooking if we were not hungry at meal times, so we quickly learned to regulate ourselves. I am hoping to reproduce this with my kids. It is great to see that a professional has similar views! We also teach the kids about foods but our way of classifying them is just to say that some foods gives you a lot of energy, while others are just fun but don’t give you a lot of energy. It is working out so far. Post again if you feel inspired, it was a really good read!

    • Rubyellen says:

      Thanks Frederique! I loved Ben’s post too and I’m asking him to write another. I’m a little biased, but I think my husband is a good writer. 😉

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