A Dietitian’s Perspective on Halloween Candy

Ahhhh, Halloween! The one day of the year that our kiddos come home with a BIG bucket full of candy and goodies. Usually there is more candy in those buckets than our kids see the entire year. As parents, it’s hard not to take one look at that bucket, snatch it up, and hide it to prevent our kids from gorging on all of that sugary goodness. However, adapting this mentality can teach our kids to restrict, sneak or hide food. It can also cause them to overeat these foods at school, parties, or friends houses when they can’t have them at home. It also prevents them from listening to their natural, biological signs of hunger and fullness.

As a dietitian I often am encouraging parents to adapt a strategy called “Division of Responsibility.” (DOR) This is a feeding method developed by Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter. Often times parents can overstep their boundaries when it comes to feeding their children, and this can often lead to a “power struggle” at meal and snack times. The idea of DOR is that when it comes to mealtimes parents and kids have separate jobs.

Parents’ feeding jobs: 

  • What foods are offered
  • When foods are offered
  • Where food is offered (no distractions) 

Children’s eating jobs: 

  • How much to eat (as many servings as they like) 
  • If they will eat (they may choose not to eat) 

So, how does this relate to Halloween Candy?

As parents, we trust our kids to trust themselves in how to handle their candy, within a certain structure. It is likely that they will eat more than usual or necessary on Halloween. That’s normal! In the days and weeks to follow, they can include some candy along with meals or snacks.

If you feel your child is overdoing it, this is a great time to have an open and honest discussion with your child. For example, if they complain of a stomach ache after eating too much candy you could express your concern that he isn’t listening to his own fullness level. You can remind him that he is in charge of knowing when he has had enough.

Being a parent is such an important and hard job. Halloween time and the struggle with candy is no exception! Use this time to incorporate this new eating strategy and to have these discussions with your child. It may help you at other times throughout the year!