Tricks for your kids to enjoy candy this Halloween


Limiting your child’s candy this Halloween can be more than just a trick, experts say.

When you’re growing up as a kid, that bag full of candy can be the scariest part of Halloween — whether it’s a sugar rush, the worry of parental perfectionism, or the anxiety of diet culture.

“It makes sense to be afraid because we’ve been taught to be afraid,” said Oona Hanson, a Los Angeles-based parenting coach. “Sugar is kind of the boogeyman in our current cultural conversation.”

But micromanaging your child’s candy supply can backfire, causing your child to overvalue, reduce, or engage in unhealthy candy behavior, says Natalie Mokari, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charlotte, North Carolina.

While it can be stressful to see your child faced with more candy than they’ll eat in an entire year, leaning into the joy may be the best approach, she adds.

“They’re only at that age where they want to be tricked or treated by a small sliver of time, it’s so short,” Mokari said. “Enjoy that day.”

Experts do not suggest that children have sugar every day. The American Heart Association and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee – groups responsible for issuing science-based recommendations every five years – have recommended lower daily sugar levels. Too much added sugar has been linked to cardiovascular disease and a lack of essential nutrients.

But a healthy relationship with food involves balance, and you can keep your kids’ diet full of nutrients while letting them eat treats, Mokari said.

She and Hanson shared some tips on how to relieve the stress of eating candy this Halloween.

Some of the stress from limiting children’s Halloween treats may reflect adults’ relationship with food.

If you look at the candy in your child’s bag and worry that you’re going to overdo it or develop weight anxiety, it might be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional or dietitian about rethinking your relationship with food, Mokari said.

It’s especially important because what we say to children about food can have a huge impact on their relationship with it and their bodies, Hanson said.

A comment like “I need to work out after all that sugar” or “I can’t have that at home, I’ll get so fat” can have long-lasting effects from overeating or undereating, she said.

Many communities have their own traditions to encourage children to drop off their Halloween loot. Maybe it’s making a “donation” to the dentists for a reward, or trading candy with the Switch Witch for a toy.

Hanson said a place to get rid of candy after Halloween for some kids.

If your kids aren’t excited about candy, they might ask to trade it for toys, Mokari said. Or if they have allergies or aversions to certain treats, they’ll welcome the option to get rid of what they can’t or don’t want to eat, Hanson said.

But if your child looks at the whole bag of candy with joy, fulfilling the restriction can make the candy even more valuable in his mind and increase consolidation that wasn’t there to begin with, Mokari said.

Should Halloween be free candy? Maybe, said Moka.

Just as adults crave everything they’ve outlawed on a restrictive diet, she said, kids who manage sweets too much may start to value them more than they otherwise would.

“Forbidden Twix tastes the sweetest,” Hanson said.

Mokari said enjoying a variety of foods is part of a healthy relationship with food; so try to relax and lean in during the holidays. And remember that even though they’re tucking into a lot of candy on Halloween, they don’t always eat it, he added.

If you’re worried about a treat in the days afterward, make a plan to share treats with your child in an exciting way, Mokari said. Maybe that means packing a few portions with lunch or adding them to an afternoon snack with certain food groups, she adds.

However, it can be difficult to relax around a pound of chocolate when you’re worried about the negative impact the candy may have on your child.

Maybe it’s a stomach ache from overeating. It’s not the worst outcome, Hanson said. That stomach ache can be an important lesson in listening to what his body needs and knowing if he’s had too much of something that tastes good, he adds.

Maybe you’re worried about sugar work. Well, sugar affects everyone differently, and some kids seem to get a boost, while others get upset, Mokari said. But both will probably end in an accident.

And either way, kids will be really excited for Halloween, Hanson said. Even without all the sugar, it’s exciting for them to remember, she said.