Before Rationing Out Your Kid's Halloween Candy, Listen To This Dietitian's Advice

by Cat Bowen

I may have already purchased a handsome amount of Halloween candy, and it lives in my closet where my kids can't get it without my knowledge. I adore candy, and there's just something about a fun-sized bar that lures me in. But I never learned good junk food habits, and I worry that I won't be able to teach my kids how to enjoy them respectfully either. How do I deal with Halloween candy as a mom? Is it better to let your kid eat all their candy at once, or dole it out slowly? Is there a "right way" to do this?

There weren't a lot of "food rules" at my house growing up. When my MawMaw wasn't cooking breakfast, we routinely ate toasted, buttered chocolate Pop Tarts (try it, I assure you they're delicious when buttered) giant glasses of milk or orange juice, and sometimes even coffee for breakfast as kids. Lunches were served at school, complete with extra money for a cookie, and dinners were at a restaurant more-often-than-not due to the fact that my single mom worked a million hours each week to make sure that we could eat. When Halloween came around, it was a free-for-all. We went to town on that stuff, and typically had enough for several days worth of binging, but some research says this isn't the best idea — nor is it the worst. It might have more to do with daily habits than a yearly binge.

There are a lot of thoughts on this topic. From parents who hide the candy, only allowing bits at a time, to parents who let kids trade the candy for games or toys. Then there is the camp my mom belonged to of "live and let live" where you let your kids eat all the candy at once. There are legitimate arguments to be made for each approach. If you dole it out over a period of time, ostensibly you're teaching your children to regulate their cravings, and that just a few pieces can be really satisfying. If you let them use their candy as currency, not only are you taking away some of the sugar, you're also teaching them the value of goods — and how to spend their money. If you let them have it all at once? It's done. You can move on and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I spoke with Abbey Sharp, dietitian, new mom and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen, and asked her, "Is it better to let your kid eat all their candy at once, or dole it out slowly?" She tells Romper, "While my 6-month-old will be staying home with me this Halloween, I know it won’t be long before I’m dealing with my son bringing home a big bag of candy."

(Honestly, she could probably clean up if she took her baby out in costume. Just saying.) But nevertheless, Sharp notes that you can use "Halloween as an amazing opportunity to teach your kids how to tune into their hunger and satiety cues, and to teach kids that all foods can fit and that foods don’t have moral weight." Which is probably why I struggle. I never learned those satiety clues. I was always made to clean my plate, even if I was stuffed, and it led me down a dark food path. "No food is good or bad, and candy doesn’t need to be made into a big deal. Our job as parents is to decide when, where and what to feed our kids, and it’s our kids job to decide how much and whether they eat at all," Sharp says.

She doesn't recommend restricting your child's access to their candy, but instead allowing them to pace themselves. Encourage your children to listen to their bodies — they have a pretty good internal regulator, let them use it. As for me? I'm definitely skimming a few Snickers bars off the top — for quality assurance purposes, you see. They can have the rest.