As we go back and forth in our house about the whole issue of sugar, healthy habits & moderation and the fact that there is too much unhealthy food out there, I have to confess right off we have been living the extremes.
Don’t hate me, but the past few years we have done the let them gorge themselves Halloween night. And then live the battle, with the “can I have some candy” woes dozens of times a day for weeks afterward. That approach is pretty much ongoing hell for parents, with strung-out crazy kids right after the event. And the constant requests are enough to make me want to dump the bags in the trash immediately!
But I’m afraid this year we swung the other direction, pronouncing on Halloween night, that they would be allowed five, count them, 1-2-3-4-5 candies that night and two each day thereafter.
Of course, one of our children declared that we had “ruined Halloween.” And then, secretly ate half the bag one day when I was unawares. This person, who shall go unnamed, apparently writhed in guilt for a few hours before stomach or conscious or both caused a confession at dinner. When I said we need to have her (I mean this person’s) bag of candy “There will be no giving back of my candy, because …it is gone…” Ha Ha, we were not amused.
But we had to face the fact that our swift pendulum swing into such strict moderation had created another kind of monster: a lieing and cheating one.
And so I began to hunt for some more reasonable approach and found the following ideas, that seem practical, and healthy and although they still require a parents administration, they make sense and so I pass them on to you.
(adapted from those at www.mealsmatter.org, a Web site supported by the California Dairy Council)
Teach moderation. Overly restrictive rules around candy and other fun foods can backfire and make those foods even more desirable to kids. (Kids hiding or sneaking food behind your back is one clue. we found.) Show children that sweets and dessert can be included in moderate amounts (when you say so) as part of a healthy diet.
Spread it out. Allow kids a few pieces of trick-or-treat candy for dessert after lunch or dinner. Or include a piece or two with more healthful snacks, such as string cheese, vegetables with dip, trail mix, yogurt or a glass of milk.
Be a good role model. Junior may not give a boo for self restraint if he sees Mom or Dad finish off a bag of chips in one sitting.
Show balance. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthful diet plans that meet all our nutritional recommendations still have room for some “discretionary calories” — additional foods with fat and sugar. For most of us, though, that’s only about an extra 150 to 200 calories per day. (Emphasis mine) That may be a reasonable daily limit for Halloween candy.
Finally, registered dietitian and child nutrition expert Ellyn Satter has this to say about Halloween treats for kids: ”
Your child needs to learn to manage sweets and to keep them in proportion to the other food he eats. The key is to relegate candy to meal and snack times. Maintain the structure of meals and sit-down snacks, with parents retaining their leadership role in choosing the rest of the food that goes on the table. With that kind of structure and foundation, candy won’t spoil a child’s diet or make him too fat.”
That holds for us grown-ups, too. Happy post-Halloween!
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California.