Why has sugar gotten such a bad rap over the past decade or two? Twenty years ago, we would shovel in the Halloween sugar hit without giving a negative thought to "managing it," but over the years, we've come to understand that too much sugar is unhealthy and can cause weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes and tooth decay.
In addition, foods high in sugar make you feel full temporarily, but that also takes up the space your body has reserved for healthy foods it really needs. High-sugar foods don't have the nutrients essential to your body's health and functions. Many are turning to a sugar-free lifestyle, but few are willing to inflict that on children, especially during the Halloween season! Instead, here are some easy ways to at least manage the Halloween sugar hit:
Fill up first
Never go trick-or-treating on empty stomachs. You and your goblins won't be able to resist sampling the goods along your route, which isn't controlled or mindful eating and often ends in overindulgence. Plan an extra-healthy early meal before you head out so everyone is too full to sample the goods while collecting treats.
Sort the supply
Have your kids pick out all the treats they love best and either organize a trade-off of the cast-offs with their friends who may dislike something your kids enjoy, or use the less-favoured candies to give out at extracurricular activities or social events.
Make a plan
Decide before the trick-or-treating how many treats per day are allowed. While Canada hasn't named any daily intake suggestions for sugar, the US feels 3-4 teaspoons per day is enough for children, and no more than nine for adults. That equates to roughly two mini-chocolate bars or lollipops for kids. Be sure to include in your plan the times of day that consumption is not allowed, like one hour before bedtime or at breakfast!
Let them take control
Use a plastic container or freezer bag for your child to select fourteen treats (two per day) for the week and allow that container to be stored in a place that its owner can access, while all other candies are hidden away by parents. This limits their intake and teaches kids self-control in managing their own Halloween sugar hit.
Balance the scales
Take away sugar in other areas of the usual daily diet. Do you normally put a granola bar or cookies in lunchboxes? Remove them while Halloween candy is on the daily menu. Add in an extra fruit or vegetable choice if you're worried your child will be hungry without the missing item. Yes, fruits and some vegetables have naturally-occurring sugars in them, but those sugars are essentially the "good" sugars that give our bodies fuel, so don't need to be managed so closely.
Work it off
Fall is always a great time of year to get outside and have fun, whether it's doing chores like raking leaves or just putting them in a pile and jumping in them. Encourage the entire family to get outside and be active and managing that extra Halloween sugar hit will take care of itself with the increased exercise. The motivation behind the extra activity doesn't need to be discussed; everyone will be more inclined to participate if they don't know you've got a secret agenda!
Keep teeth clean
Morning and night teeth brushing is a minimum, but if your teeth don't normally see much sugar, it's a good idea to have a quick but thorough brushing after candy or chocolate are consumed, if possible, to ensure you're not also managing Halloween cavities later on!
Mix it up
Alternate between sweet and salty treats, if you really must binge. Salty sweets like chips usually are high in fat too, which fills you up quickly and will limit how much sugar you want to consume in one sitting. Yes, you're substituting one unhealthy food item for another, but if you don't binge every day, it should solve your cravings and still manage the Halloween sugar hit without too much strain.
Switch it out
While it's not a favourite of some, the "Switch Fairy" is often used by parents to offer a non-candy treat to kids in exchange for giving up their Halloween sugar stocks. If your child has been coveting a new toy, book or game, or has been asking to visit an amusement place, now might be the best time to offer what they're craving if they surrender the candy. What to do with the leftover supply? Many take it to work where it always magically disappears!
Phase out consumption over a couple weeks. Put the treats where they're out of sight and out of mind, and give one or two pieces per day for the first five days, then one treat for the next five days and then one treat every couple of days for the final five days. Within a few weeks, the candy will either be all gone, or the novelty will wear off and your job of managing the Halloween sugar hit can fly off on a broomstick until next year!