SALT LAKE CITY — Halloween is almost here. The days are getting colder, the leaves are falling and the excitement is building.
As a kid, I remember planning out the perfect costume a month prior, scouting the best places (i.e. the most candy) to trick-or-treat at, and making sure my basket was large enough to fit the most candy possible. It’s an exciting time to be a kid.
As a parent, however, you might be asking yourself how can you ensure your children make healthy decisions with all the available treats while still allowing them to enjoy this holiday?
I hear you. Since I'm not yet a parent myself, I reached out to parents and fellow dietitians to shed some light on this subject.
Here are five tips for a healthier and happier Halloween:
1. Serve your children a balanced dinner before heading out the door
Arielle “Dani” Lebovitz, registered dietitian nutritionist of Experience Delicious, encourages families to “eat a good meal before trick-or-treating and to talk about what candy they are looking forward to eating, so there is a focus on the treat they tend to savor.”
Kacie Barnes, registered dietitian of Mama Knows Nutrition, agrees and recommends not to "force children to eat the healthy dinner before trick-or-treating. We want to avoid teaching the message that they have to 'earn' their candy by eating something we deem healthy beforehand."
Bottom line: Serve a dinner that includes a carbohydrate food, a protein food and a fruit and/or veggie for dinner, and allow your child to choose how much they want to eat from what is offered at dinner time.
2. Avoid the good-food, bad-food mentality and negotiations with candy
Martha Barnhouse, registered dietitian of MB Wellness, advises avoiding the idea that some foods are good and some are bad. Instead, she recommends to “offer children a variety of foods regularly and teach them to make their own decisions about what foods — from the ones offered — to eat and how much.
Crystal Karges, registered dietitian nutritionist of Crystal Karges Nutrition, also suggests avoiding negotiations around the candy. For example, avoid coercing a child to eat vegetables before having a sweet treat. She says, “If a child is allowed candy with a meal, they may choose to eat that first, but this does not mean they will not eat other parts of their meal according to what their body needs. Leaving out the negotiations helps make candy more neutral and less forbidden.”
Bottom line: The research suggests that if these methods are routinely practiced, when left to make their own decisions children will typically eat a variety of foods — treats and veggies alike.
3. Practice mindful eating techniques
Mindful eating can also be a great tool to implement during Halloween. Amy Henneke, registered dietitian nutritionist of Satisfy Nutrition, recommends asking children questions about how eating candy (and other foods) makes them feel. Questions like, “how does your tummy feel after eating candy?” and “does this fill you up the same way as a meal?” can help them identify feelings of hunger and fullness and tune in to how those foods make them feel.
This can also be a helpful tool for adults. Kelly Jones, registered dietitian of Kelly Jones Nutrition, suggests parents buy their favorite Halloween candy and have their own mindful eating experience to kick off the night. She writes, “If you allow yourself to have the candy and truly enjoy it, you’ll be less likely to snack on it quickly between trick-or-treaters and you’ll decrease the chances of binging on it and feeling guilty for it later.” It's a win-win.
Bottom line: Practice mindful eating techniques by eating slowly, without distraction and in a relaxed environment. Help your child pay attention to how the candy makes them feel by asking questions.
4. Include candy into meal times for your child.
Lebovitz advocates for setting specific opportunities to eat the candy so that children know they will get to eat the goodies they worked so hard for. Karges agrees and says, “Giving a child the opportunity to enjoy some of their candy or treats alongside their meals or for a snack reinforces the idea that all foods fit and helps assure them that these foods can always be part of their future. This prevents the feeling of deprivation, which in turn helps them learn to eat these foods moderately.”
Bottom line: Include treats into meal times so that these foods are neutralized and children get the idea that all foods fit.
5. As a parent, give yourself permission to be imperfect.
A common thread among parents is that everyone is trying to do their best. Your best will not be perfect and that is OK. Give yourself some compassion and grace in the parenting journey. And most importantly, have fun! Perhaps throwing on a costume yourself can help you channel your inner child.
Editor’s Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to (a) be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; (b) create, and receipt of any information does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. You should NOT rely upon any legal information or opinions provided herein. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel; and (c) create any kind of investment advisor or financial advisor relationship. You should NOT rely upon the financial and investment information or opinions provided herein. Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.