Nutrition • Oct 30, 2013

Tricks for Managing Halloween Treats

For the first time, my 4-year old son really understands the concept of “Halloween.”  He chose a costume for each member of the family (regardless of how we each wanted to dress) and has been on the look-out for ghosts. He will enjoy watching It’ the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown the night before Halloween.  Of course, he also has figured out the best part about Halloween – the candy! Due to a school festival, block party, and community trunk-or-treat events, there have been many opportunities to build his candy stash before the actual big day arrives. The ever expanding pile of candy in our house has forced me to think about how, as a mom, I will handle candy consumption over the next days and weeks.

I like to believe that my approach to nutrition as a mother falls in the middle between Mama June’s “sketti” (spaghetti mixed with ketchup and butter) and Go-Go Juice (Red Bull and Mountain Dew) featured on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and the vegetarian, organic, and macrobiotic diet that Madonna reportedly prefers for her children.  On good days, each meal I serve to my children has at least one fruit or vegetable and on my very best days both are present. However, I enjoy hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and cheese pizza as much as (if not more than) my children, and I know exactly from whom my son inherited his sweet tooth. I strive for “moderation” in all aspects of what we consume at home to balance what we need to be healthy with the more indulgent choices we make. I would like to take this same “middle of the road” approach to managing Halloween candy in order to teach my children to enjoy special treats without unnecessary guilt while also knowing how not to over indulge.

In order to develop an “all things in moderation” approach to Halloween, I brainstormed a few ideas and borrowed a few others from the Internet.  Here is the what I came up with:

1.      Limit the route and do something else with the rest of Halloween night: We will focus trick-or-treating to one or two blocks in our neighborhood.  By keeping the number of houses that we visit down, the amount of candy that we acquire will be less.  My son will join me for the remainder of the night sitting on our front porch handing out candy to other trick-or-treaters. There are a number of fun family activities for Halloween night that can keep the time spent trick-or-treating limited while still having fun such as watching a Halloween-themed movie, reading scary stories by flashlight, or turning one room of the home into a haunted house.

2.      Limit the size of the pumpkin: My children have multiple pumpkins and other receptaclesHalloween to use to collect their candy.  I will have them take the smallest of these candy carriers with us when we go door-to-door.  A small container will fill up faster and helps the child feel as though he or she has taken in a huge haul.  I am always amazed by the number of trick-or-treaters who put their candy into a plastic shopping bag or pillow case.  It would take a lot of candy to feel that one of those was full and it was time to go home.

3.      Write down your five favorite candies before you leave: Before leaving for trick-or-treating, children can write down their five favorite types of candy.  When they get home, they can then keep anything that is on the list and get rid of anything that is not on the list. Making the list of favorites ahead of time may make the sorting process easier at the end of the night.

4.      Find a candy buy-back program: Many dentist offices and other organizations participate in candy buy-back programs that allow children to sell their candy for a per pound price or to trade the candy for other non-food prizes.  Visit to find local dentists and organizations that buy candy and then donate it to Operation Gratitude, which includes the candy in care packages sent to US military personnel as well as veterans, Wounded Warriors, and first responders. If your local area does not have a candy buy-back program, you can offer to buy some of your child’s candy.  Let them use the money for a non-food treat and find somewhere in your community that might accept the candy as a donation such as a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or domestic violence shelter.

5.      Develop a pieces-per-day rule: Portion control is neither original nor exciting, but it works. We use a two-pieces-per-day rule in our house to limit how much candy our children eat.  We keep the candy stash on a high shelf in the cupboard to keep it out of sight of our young ones (and to make it harder for us to “steal”).  It may be helpful to pick an “expiration date” for the candy stash and agree to throw out any pieces that have not been eaten while following the piece-per-day-rule (which may prevent you from having to combine Halloween candy with marshmallow Peeps come spring).

6.      Get creative: I found several ideas for using Halloween candy creatively online. Ideas include baking with the candy such as using pieces of chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips for making cookies, creating candy art by using Skittles® and other small candies as mosaic “tiles,” and getting a head start on the holiday gingerbread house.

One of the things that I love most about Halloween is that it brings out everyone’s creative side! By thinking creatively, I think it is possible to allow our children to savor the candy goodness of Halloween while also learning how not to be “ghoul-ish” by going overboard. Happy Halloween!


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