How to Prep Your Kids For A Night of Candy
Halloween is coming up quickly. We've chosen our costumes (my kids and I are going to be the Pink Ladies from Grease!), we've carved the pumpkins, but if I'm honest with myself, I know more than anything it’s the candy they’re most excited about.
Halloween can be a bit of a candy free-for-all that sets many health-conscious parents into a tailspin. As a dietitian (and health-conscious parent myself), my approach to Halloween is to head into the holiday with a few simple strategies. Yes, too much candy can result in tummy aches, or sluggish kids the next morning, but it doesn't have to be this way. Halloween can be an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about self-regulation. With a few simple tips to prepare your kids for a night of Halloween treats, I feel confident you can have your candy and eat it too.
Start with a Good Diet
One night of candy has much less of an impact when your kids have a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods as their foundation.
School-aged kids need 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (make sure they’re not all fruit!), four whole grain servings, and high-quality protein like meat, fish, lentils, beans, tofu, eggs, or Greek yogurt at every meal.
When kids’ diets are mostly healthy, there’s some wiggle room for ‘fun foods’ like candy. It’s all about balance!
Prep Their Tummies
Sugar and good gut bacteria are not friends. Preliminary research has shown that high sugar diets can alter the gut microbiota, favouring the growth of bad vs. good bacteria.
Probiotics can help contribute to healthy gut bacteria, by supporting the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in our intestines.
Bio-Kidz contains 12.5 billion, 100% probiotic bacteria, that has been clinically shown to help improve your child's gut flora.
As a bonus, probiotics also help the immune system stay strong. When kids are back in class the next day, sharing all that candy, you have some extra defenses to keep cold and flu germs at bay.
Establish Guidelines Ahead of Time
Do not wait until the kids bust through the door at the end of the night, candy bags bulging, to set the rules around how many treats they can have.
Take some time before the big night to have a discussion with your kids about limits, and let them have the chance to give their opinions.
Work together to find the guidelines that you can both agree on. Kids should know that their input matters as well. In the end, empowering them to find a solution instead of just telling them what to do, will help ensure that everybody is happy.
Food & Movement
A good source of protein should be part of your dinner plate every night, but especially so on Halloween.
Protein digests slowly, meaning that tummies are more likely to stay full longer. Yes, this may not be enough to stop all candy intake, but it hopefully will play a part in limiting it.
Walking versus driving your kids around your neighbourhood also goes a long way in helping to offset a sugar rush. If your neighbourhood isn't walkable, try meeting up with friends in their neighbourhood and taking your kids together. The social aspect can be a great way for parents to celebrate the holiday as well.
Set Them Loose
Give your kids permission to enjoy Halloween and not feel afraid or guilty about occasional indulgences. Allow them to collect their candy and have fun.
Once they’re home for the evening, allow them to choose a few pieces of candy to enjoy that night. Moving forward, let them pick 1-2 pieces a day to eat. You might be surprised that when you lift restrictions a bit, the allure of sweets recedes, and kids self-manage on their own.
That said, maintain some oversight to ensure that kids aren’t taking this concept too far. Halloween is a special occasion, and continuing the free-for-all all year long isn’t healthy at all.