Halloween is upon us, and for the average kid, that means getting the chance to score a truckload of sweet treats that would rival the yearly output of any candy factory. As a parent, you definitely want your kids to enjoy the fruits of their trick-or-treating labor, but you also know that too much of a good thing can lead to sugar-induced jitters and subsequent crashes.
And we're not just talking about the kids, either--many of us have developed the habit of raiding the plastic pumpkin bucket when the kids are asleep in order to feed our own sugar cravings! So how can we successfully moderate our children's (and our own) candy intake to keep everything within the limits of sanity? Below are some tips to help you navigate the temptations of Halloween's bounty without being a killjoy in the process.
1. On Halloween night, prepare a healthy meal for your kids before they go out trick-or-treating. Make sure your food choices are well balanced to include whole grains, lean meats and vegetables. A protein-focused entree such as chicken breast or salmon fillets will go a long way toward keeping their blood sugar at optimal levels before making their rounds. You definitely want to avoid serving a meal laden with starches or other carb-heavy foods (e.g., mac-and-cheese, french fries, spaghetti, pizza, etc.), as this will spike their blood glucose levels before they even get a chance to nibble on their first sweet treat.
2. Reduce the size of their trick-or-treat bag. Scores of experts agree that we tend to consume higher quantities of food when it comes in larger packages. In other words, the natural tendency is to eat more food when there's more food available for us to eat. This definitely means staying away from the pillowcase or the jumbo-sized plastic pumpkin. Instead, try to pick a container that will hold roughly three or four adult handfuls of candy, and you should be good.
3. Limit the amount of candy your child consumes while they're making their trick-or-treating rounds. For some kids, it's understood that there will be no eating of candy until all the trick-or-treating is done, while others like to sample their sweet treasures while they're still pounding the pavement.
For the sake of moderation, it's better to go with the former rule, but if you don't mind allowing your child to eat candy while they're going from house to house, make sure that it totals up to a very small amount (three or four pieces). Encourage them to wait and enjoy their rewards when the trick-or-treating is all finished. Once they're home, you can give them a limit on the amount of candy they can eat for the night (and it's okay to be generous for this one), with the understanding that they will not be able to pull an "encore performance" on subsequent days.
4. After Halloween night has passed and your children have sufficiently looted their local neighborhoods for candy, you'll need to be the guardian of the candy stash from that point on. Without a doubt, your kids will be asking you, possibly non-stop, for candy at different times of the day. Set clear parameters as to when they can have candy (definitely not before breakfast), and how much they can have at a time.
A good time for kids to enjoy their Halloween bounty is after lunchtime, since the candy can function as a type of dessert, but again, allow them to eat only a few pieces at a time. When done right, your kids' candy stash can last for well over a week, which will actually make it more fun for them since they can have a little treat to look forward to after their meals.
5. If your children raked in a huge haul on Halloween night, it wouldn't hurt to give some of their candy away by bringing some to your workplace, your place of worship, etc. Chances are they won't even miss it. You may also want to talk to your children about the importance of sharing, and encourage them to give some of their abundant candy stash to a local shelter or orphanage.
6. There's a lot of truth to the statement "Out of sight, out of mind." One of the most helpful rules to keep your children--and you, for that matter--from going on a candy binge is to keep the candy out of sight and out of reach. If you put all of the candy in a big bowl on the living room table, you're basically giving both you and your kids unlimited access to your candy stash, which will inevitably lead to non-stop snacking on sweet treats. Keep the leftover candy in a hard-to-reach place (a high pantry shelf, on top of the refrigerator, etc.), so that you and your kids won't have a constant visual reminder of your Halloween haul.
Sweet treats are definitely a fun part of the Halloween experience, but it's always a good idea to enjoy them in moderation. While the temptations of a plentiful Halloween candy stash are many, you can keep the above tips in mind to help you stave off those cravings and keep everyone's candy intake at a reasonable level.