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Here, we are…. the most wonderful time of the year is upon us: Halloween.

Hahhahaha… Not.

There’s all of that Halloween candy… and kids that don’t normally eat a lot of candy… what should we do??

Attempting to control a child’s relationship with food by controlling when and what they eat leads to unhealthy associations down the road via eating disorders and an inability to listen to their body to know when they are hungry.

Millions of adults are dealing with obesity today and guess what: they didn’t have parents who let them eat whatever they wanted.  

  • They had parents that told them when to eat, what to eat, how to eat, and shamed them for eating too much, too little (clean your plate, there are starving kids in China!!), for gaining weight, for being selfish, and on and on.  

  • They had parents that would give them ice cream when they were sad, candy and cake on special occasions only, and distract them with food during a tantrum!

  • They had parents who told them they didn’t know when they were hungry because they had to wait for mealtime, and that they had to either try everything or finish it…  And of course: told them they had to eat what was served, because their parents weren’t short order cooks!

Sound familiar?

The problem with this thinking about food is this:

  1.  Children learn that food is scarce – it only comes when mom or dad says it comes and then we only get so much – so they develop lack around food rather than abundance
  2.  They learn not to listen to their bodies, but to listen to the clock, unless…
  3.  Unless they are sad or bored, then they can soothe with food or eat a treat
  4.  They learn some foods are “bad” and some foods are “good” and THEY are “bad” for eating “bad” foods
  5.  They develop a shaming voice around food, and later rebellion eating and sneaking food
  6.   Everyone has different palates and different tastes, would you be happy if someone told you exactly what you will eat at every meal and you must finish it all?
  7.   There is no difference between throwing food in the trash or eating it: either way, it’ll end up as waste
  8.   Cleaning their plate does nothing to help starving kids in China.  Teach them how to help the starving kids in China!
  9.   There is no BAD or GOOD food, there is only LIVE or DEADENED food.  Live food is food closest to its natural source, cooked the least

To help kids have a healthy, natural relationship with food, don’t control what or when they eat.  Control what is in the house and fill it with live foods (like fresh fruit, vegetables) rather than processed, deadened foods (like cookies, cake, candy).

Teach kids how to prepare their foods as soon as they are developmentally able, and keep healthy snacks within their reach.  Set out trays of healthy finger foods rather than cooking a big dinner.

Give them small portions at a time and allow them to ask for more to help food last longer, but don’t eat their leftovers or make them finish it – you are not a garbage can or refrigerator either..  The food is still wasted if it’s eaten when one isn’t hungry.

But, on Halloween, if you are going to sign up for this holiday in our culture, don’t try to control the candy either, especially on Halloween night.  Allow them to indulge and if they eat too much, talk about how they are physically and mentally feeling. 

Foods like candy make us feel yucky.  Observe that with them.  Talk about how it tasted good but our body didn’t really like it.

Then, if you have young kids, stick the candy in the freezer, throw it away (days later, after they’ve stopped asking for it), participate in your dentist’s buy-back, put it out of sight… but know that whether or not they eat an entire plastic pumpkin of candy, they aren’t going to have issues from it unless you interfere and create issues (or they stop brushing their teeth!).
I find putting candy out of sight to be very effective… for myself and the kids!  I tend to stick it in the freezer because that’s REALLY out of sight and if I think I want any, it’s rock hard and I have to wait for it to thaw if I’m really dedicated to eating it!
If you don’t want them to partake, don’t partake in the holiday, or go somewhere where non-candy treats are handed out.  Hand out something other than candy yourself.  We can make this holiday more healthy if we want, but otherwise we have to just let them experience what we’ve created, and help them understand how eating candy uninhibited ultimately makes them feel. 

Tonight is about connection, not the candy, not the costumes, not the parties or the trick-or-treating.  Set the intention now to connect with your child at their level, to play, be joyful, and not ruin the night by obsessing about the candy they eat. 

Happy Halloween!!