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How to Manage the Halloween Candy Heap

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:37pm

Halloween means an autumn night filled with excited costumed children, running from house to house in a frenzied effort to gather as much candy as possible. Once home, you’re faced with a seemingly endless pile of sweets. Most of us admit to raiding our children’s candy stash, so the struggle is not just with the kids.

What’s a parent to do?

After the trick-or-treating is over, the next phase is to successfully negotiate how much and when the looming mountain of candy will be consumed. To tackle this gut-busting, artery clogging issue, here are some suggestions to ration, store and use the candy in a fair, sane and practical manner.

Get and Give. Build a sense of community responsibility by encouraging your child(ren) to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. It’s a wonderful tradition to have children do something for others, so encourage your kids to collect money for hungry children while claiming candy for themselves.

Offer A Non-Edible Treat. Consider giving out something otherthan candy. Some Halloween ideas that have been successfully received at my door, include: a spider ring, a mini pinball game, gliders, “eye” balls, temporary tattoos, whistle,s or a similar ghoulish toy that will outlast the candy and be cherished just for being different. The most common remark at my house has been “Cool, check it out”. Halloween novelties can be found in bulk at www.ustoy.com or www.orientaltrading.com, so plan ahead.

Portion Control. Approaches must fit the family. However, one factor remains constant – you need to find a comfort zone between allowing unlimited quantities of candy to be devoured and completely denying all candy. Most Halloween candy comes in snack-size and miniatures, which should be viewed as a welcome form of portion control; rationing the number of treats than becomes the trick. Calories add up and if the kids aren’t sufficiently active, those extra calories will be stored as fat, challenging a healthy body weight in time. It’s not enough to forgive Halloween as an out-of-norm candyfest because you don’t want to encourage expectations of candy all the time

BEFORE TRICK-OR-TREATING: Fill the Tank Wisely

Just as it’s better not to go grocery shopping when hungry, it’s best to give your kids something nourishing before they head out to trick-or-treat. The trick is finding something they’ll actually eat in their excited, dressed-up state. Even if it’s a cheese stick or a yogurt, and apple slices, or a bowl of cereal and a banana, it will help balance the overindulgence that not down will come later in the evening.

AFTER TRICK-OR-TREATING: Think Actively

  • Sort it Out. First, make a game out of sorting the candy into two piles: favorites and rejects. Toss out the “dislike” pile immediately.
  • Establish A Policy. Encourage each child to pick a few favorites to save. Maybe all bets are off on how much for the post collecting eve. Afterwards, t he “how much” should be at your discretion; and, it’s a decision you need to lead, maybe with a tone of negotiating. It’s helpful to create a plan for candy consumption that is clearly stated for the days after Halloween — be it one piece a day, or whatever you want after dinner — make a family stated plan and stick with it.
  • Burn It Off. Physical activity should be part of the “how much” decision, Children who are more active can use up the extra calories. If kids agree to play outside for at least 30 minutes after eating the candy, they will be learning about energy balance, a lesson that can go a long way toward establishing good lifestyle habits. And, parents would benefit from joining your kids in being more active. Plan a family hike or bike ride, or a neighborhood ball game to work off the calories. How about grabbing the rake, you’ll get needed yard work done quicker en mass and the kids will stay busy and active jumping in the piles and then helping to bag them.
  • Reserve it to Bake It. Have everyone contribute their m&ms to make Halloween-inspired cookies (made with whole wheat flour and transfat free margarine). Save hard candies and other colorful and nicely textured sweets to decorate a gingerbread house. Some candy can be reserved to be crushed up for a topping on ice cream or cakes.

Out of sight is out of mind. This is especially true for younger kids. Promote the “if I don’t see it, it’s not there” concept by putting the favorites stash into a bag or Halloween jar for a set time and place it an unobtrusive location. After a few days, place remaining “must keep” candy in the pantry or freezer to keep it fresh but no longer visible as a daily reminder. Whatever’s left after say, 2-3 months can be discarded!

  • A note on Storage. Candy can be stored in a cool place for up to six months in an airtight container, according to the National Confectioners Association. Freezing candy prolongs its shelf life, but frozen chocolate should be taken out right before it’s eaten because radical temperature changes can cause a bloom — the white coating that occurs when the sugar and cocoa butter rise to the surface — and is safe to eat.
  • Keep It Home. While it may be expected or tempting to stick a treat in the lunch box, please refrain. Having candy at school raises unpleasant and unnecessary competition and peer pressure. Instead, reserve candy for an after school treat or after dinner. Also, there are federally mandated requirements to enforce a School Wellness Policy in schools, which prohibits the sale and consumption of nutrient-lacking foods from being served during the day. It would certainly help the teachers and administrators to have parents support a healthy eating environment at school.
  • Keep Them Smiling. This constant candy consumption offers an opportunity to reinforce the importance of brushing teeth (for two minutes) at least twice daily, and flossing.
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