Candy or Bust?
Ahhhhh, Halloween! Candy! Chocolate! Raisins?
My best friend, Randi, and I used to love dressing up for Halloween and sampling the goods from all the neighbors. Mrs. Garvel always had the best and biggest candy bars. Huge Nestle Crunch Bars. Colossal Butterfingers. Titanic Swirly Lollipops. Yum Yum. Of course, we always had the one “weird” neighbor who gave out raisins. Yeah- who wants raisins on Halloween?
The word is out. It turns out that many people are trying to find alternatives for Halloween Candy.
Given the rise in childhood “obesity” and “overweight” people are scrambling to make deals with their children over the amount of candy they can eat and what toys might be acceptable substitutes for the old sugary pastimes on this all-access holiday.
It wasn’t the gruesome costumes or gory masks turning up at Lisa Bruno’s front door that spooked her on Halloween. It was the pudge lurking beneath the costumes. “The kids were just so huge,” Bruno says.
The weight controversy aside, we all know it’s not really healthy for kids to sit in their room with a plastic pumpkin full of sweets—or worse yet, an overflowing pillow case like Randi and I used to use for maximum storage capabilities. It’s not great for the teeth, the belly, the skin, or the brain!
Here are some of the suggestions for dealing with the sugar overload:
(1) Don’t say “No” to all candy: When candy is the forbidden fruit, they’ll try to pluck it from any source they can find. Unless your children have extreme dietary restrictions due to health, and absolute “no” can backfire.
(2) Provide limits: Allow your children a certain amount of the treasured stash each day or allow them to pick 10 pieces of candy and give the rest away to charity, the local police, or another location. This is a great time to talk to your children about portion sizes.
(3) Use the “SwitchWitch:” The fantastical creature is also known as “The Sugar Fairy.” Ask your children to switch whatever amount of candy they want for a toy. A little candy leads to a little toy. A lot of their candy leads to a big toy. In the middle of the night, “The Switch Witch” or “The Sugar Fairy” comes, takes the candy they’ve laid out, and replaces it with a toy commensurate with the amount of candy donated. Some children will be more apt to do this than others but it’s definitely worth a good try.
(4) Buy back the candy: You can do this with actual money, books, or even time doing something special with Mom or Dad. For example, a piece of candy can be worth 5 cents, 20 pieces of candy could be worth one book, or 50 pieces of candy could be worth a special outing to dinner and the ice cream shop with Dad. Ice cream might seem counter productive—but what would you rather your child have; 50 pieces of candy or 1 ice-cream sundae?
(5) Provide yummy or cool alternatives: Those of you who really don’t want to give candy on Halloween need to be really creative here. No kid really wants cheese sticks, raisins, and juice boxes for Halloween. They get that stuff everyday! Come on. I mean, who are these people giving out dental floss and tooth brushes when the children ring their bells? However, for young children, magic wands, temporary tattoos, stuffed animals, match book cars, balloons, and cool stickers can work. Even gift certificates for a slice of pizza, a sundae, or a doughnut could be a good alternative since parents can allow the children to use once Halloween is just a memory. Some other alternatives are here, here, and here.
(6) Don’t make fat such a big fat deal: One night of eating candy does not a fat boy make. It takes much more than that to gain weight! We don’t want to make children worry about body image simply because they’re eating candy on Halloween. We all like to indulge every once in a while and Halloween is fun and yummy! It’s not healthy or good for one’s belly to stuff themselves with too many candy bars but teaching children that they can eat a treat and enjoy it once in a while is important AND healthy.
“It’s important that we as parents help them find the balance between that very traditional fun activity and a healthy lifestyle. The government’s food pyramid allows about 10 percent of the day’s calories for most kids to come from extras, which includes candy. That’s going to allow every child to have some candy on a daily basis, and it really is OK.” (Connie Diekman, past president of the American Dietetic Association)
Remember what it was like participating in Halloween when you were little. Teach your children well but don’t suck the fun out of Halloween. And please, keep your raisins and dental floss to yourself.
You have any good ideas about candy and Halloween? Do you agree about providing alternatives or do you think kids should be able to live and let live during the weeks around Halloween? Please share your suggestions as well as your opinions. We can all learn something from each other!