Harvest time is here, and while I personally am so fond of the fall season for the abundance of pumpkins, nutrient rich root vegetables and the crisp fall air- if you are a parent hoping to raise an intuitive eater, you may be concerned about a sticky issue- Halloween candy. As most savvy parents we know, candy is a low nutrient treat and one of the most common culprits for dental carries in children. However, we also know that when we restrict something its often the
I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up looking forward to harvest time solely because it’s the only time she gets to enjoy candy. When we introduce sweets as neutral and regularly incorporate them into our homes, it turns out to be
I Ellyn Satter emphasizes that parents focus on three ideas mentioned in her book Your Child’s Weight, Helping Without Harming to help you tackle the problem with ease, I summarized these ideas from her newsletter below, you can see the link at the bottom for the original article.
1. DON’T RESTRICT THE SWEETS
There are no good or bad foods, all food should be considered neutral and served with the principles of moderation, variety and balance in mind. If you are struggling with this, you may have your own food/weight issues that may need some attention first, check out the Intuitive Eating page for more information. Integrating sweets into your child’s diet serves as a learning opportunity for them to manage sweets and self regulate themselves, Contrary to what we might assume, research studies show that children who do not have access to sweets or whose parents label them “forbidden or bad” end up eating the treats when not hungry and end up sneaking food. This leads to the whole shame and guilt cycle that many of us as adults fall into…Counter to this, girls who were regularly offered treats ate the treats moderately (no hiding or sneaking, or running to grandmas house required) since the treats were neutral to them, not “forbidden.”
2. LET THEM EXPLORE THEIR LOOT
Don’t interfere with their desire to bring the candy home, follow the usual routine of looking for any suspicious objects or any candy that has already been opened, ect. Allow the little ones to look at it, play with it, jump in the pile (or whatever it is kids do with a huge loot of candy..) and chose which pieces they would like-
while taking all of the Reese’s for yourself, of course. Let them eat as much as they wish the night of and the next day (…yes, I do study nutrition and yes, I just gave you permission to let your child enjoy their candy…). This is often hard for most parents to swallow, when we first started incorporating these child feeding principles, I admit it was difficult, but you learn to really trust your child. After the next day, Ellyn Satter suggests following the Division of Responsibility by limiting candy to only meal and snack times.
”If he can follow the rules, your child gets to keep control of the stash. Otherwise, you do, on the assumption that as soon as he can manage it, he gets to keep it”
Parent Question: Won’t allowing them candy at the meal ruin their appetite and opportunity for good nutrition?
No, offering candy in a structured manner, by offering it only at meal or snack times allows the opportunity for parents to be leaders by choosing what other nutrient dense foods will be served at the meal or snack, while still allowing the child autonomy.
3. KEEP IT FUN
Who child doesn’t love the opportunity to show off their latest batman costume? I know my child has been sporting around her costume for the majority of the month of October around the house. With that said, many children report Halloween being one of their favorite holidays. When parents become overly concerned about sugar and transfer that fear onto their child, then we have a problem.
If your having a community get together or potluck, plan on incorporating other nutrient dense foods as well such as a slow cooker chili, colorful vegetables with dip as well as incorporating fun non food activities for the children to participate in. I love some of these ideas from Food Done Light .
Also, check if your community runs a “Candy Buy Back Program” San Diego runs a great program where we can go to our local dentist and they “buy back” our candy ans send it over to the troops overseas as a thoughtful gesture. If you are in the San Diego area, check out this page for a list of dentists in your area!
Wishing you a safe and joyful harvest season,
This article was inspired by Elly Satter’s “Focus on the Family” newsletter, Family Meal Focus #30, article reference here. If you are new to child feeding, I highly recommend you spend some time on the resources page and check out the Ellyn Satter Institute for evidence based research and ways to incorporate the DOR (division of responsibility) to learn how to feed your family and foster healthy eaters!