Ahhhhh! High fructose corn syrup! Artificial dyes! Unpronounceable chemicals! Extruded rice crispy treats! Ahhhhh!
When I was a kid, the big scare was razorblades in apples. Now, conscious-minded parents everywhere are terrorized by the everyday poisons of process sugars and other nastiness found in their child's trick or treat bucket. Well, I'm here to say, “BOO!”
Here's 4 reasons to let your kids eat junk this Halloween:
1 – Balance is part of healthy living
For those of us parents a bit obsessed with healthy living (and rightfully so), Halloween provides an opportunity to exercise balance – and to not drive your child to become a snickers hoarding freak with a secret stash of candy under his bed.
2 – Experience is the best teacher
Junior will soon find out that stuffing his face with candy may feel good for the soul, but not so much for the body. Resist the urge to say, “I told you so” for best results.
3 – You have a trade-in plan
Last year, when our son was too little to notice, we let him eat his loot while trick-or-treating, and then dumped the rest in the trash when we got home.
This year our trick-or-treater gets to eat as much candy as he wants on Halloween, but for every piece left over the next day, he gets a 10 cent credit toward a toy of his choosing.
Find a plan that is appropriate for your kid. If your child has health issues that prevent him/her from consuming particular foods (or non-foods as the case may be), a straight trade-in plan may be your best bet for enjoying the festivities.
4 – You serve nourishing food all year round
When your family eats healthy real food at nearly every meal, the occasional celebratory junk is not likely to ruin anyone's health. Make sure your kids eat their fill of a wholesome meal before indulging in sugary debauchery.
If you don't regularly fill your plates with real food, here's how to start.
Do you ever let your kids eat junk?
Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist says
I totally agree! While I cringe when my kids trick or treat, it is a good opportunity to teach balance. Shielding them from every possible thing that is unhealthy that they can put in their mouth will backfire when their hormones flair during puberty. Eventually they will be making their own health decisions so letting them take the reins every now and then and being there to help them think through the process is very important.
Emily @ Butter Believer says
Okay, I LOVE this! I don’t have kids yet, but future mommyhood is on my mind as it’s only a couple years down the road for us. As Halloween approached this year, I couldn’t help but thinking — “Crap! What am I gonna do with our kids one day when they’re forced to be the only freaks at school not allowed to eat Halloween candy??”
But you know what — I’m not gonna do that. For every reason you just listed! I especially love the incentive to trade in candy for toy money — but as an option, not a requirement. I like the way you think! 🙂
ann marie montes says
I’m the black sheep.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
Yes, I will be letting my daughter eat junk this Halloween. I agree, they eat well most of the year. A little junk here and there won’t kill them. And I don’t want her to feel like a shut in who can’t mingle with other kids.
Jennifer @ 20 something allergies and counting...down says
With all of my daughter’s health issues we have been successfully overcoming (digestive, allergies, and severe cavities), the thought of giving her the run of the mill Halloween candy makes my hair turn gray. 🙂 We will do a straight trade-in for a toy, book, DVD, etc. and give her a safe candy if she’s feeling left out.
Being 4 years old, she has no problems with staying away from SAD foods as long as I can provide a satisfactory alternative. We brainstorm together and pick one that makes her happy!
…but believe you me, my sugar addiction will come slithering out of the hole I banished it to and sneak a piece or 4. Maybe I should keep a glass of kombucha at the ready to keep my floor from becoming littered with a sea of circus-colored wrappers after munchkin’s bedtime. 😀
Gina Malewicz says
I tried this one year. We had been eating really healthy on the GAPS diet for a couple years. After eating the candy, my 8 year old son (who is a picky eater) stopped eating meat for a couple months!!!! So we are back to trading in the candy for toys or money.
My son is almost 4 and my daughter is 16 months. I still think they are young enough to do a trade in or let them have a couple pieces on Halloween and them let them pick 7 of their favorites, one for every day of the following week. My son has done fine with this in the past, so we’ll see how long it lasts.
I let my kids whom are older gorge on Halloween. We talk about food all the time and HFCS/processed sugars. I feel really bad thou because they experiance all the symptoms of a hyperglycemic episode. Yet it teaches them what the typical american diet is doing to americans and what it will do to their body. I make sure to push the water to help dilute the blood and keep them from becoming dehydrated. Good tip on making sure they are WELL feed before the evening….and I have totally sneaked some right to the garbage, huh you must have ate it already! 😉
I definitely will not be letting my kids eat candy this Halloween. I agree with the points made in the article, but the past few years have been very difficult financially for our family so our continued commitment to buy and prepare only healthy foods has really taken a toll on the family budget and I cannot abide the thought of working against all of the good that we have done our bodies, and at such great cost for so little a payout. There is local dentist that will buy candy from the kids at $1/lb and I will let them do that. When we want to splurge on a treat it will be something like homemade soaked wheat cinnamon rolls made with succanat. Or possibly some of that UNREAL candy–anyone seen that? Candy made without HFCS and artificial dyes, though it does still have soy lecithin.
Totally not happening! The kiddos can have the fun…dress up, have fun, collect it, look at it, etc.. I will let them pick out 1-2 chocolates or trade it for an organic sucker and the rest goes in the garbage! I believe teaching them to have self control and that this stuff (can’t even call it food) is absolutely junk and should not be eaten is the lesson to be taught. Another question…when does it stop? There is always another “holiday” or special occasion, every other week, it seems. If I would let my son (he will be 6 on halloween 🙂 eat all that he wanted, I would pay for it for at least a week.
Hi Wendy – I see your point. Really, I do. But how does forbidding something teach self control? I think that banning a food (or anything for that matter) only heightens the intrigue and temptation. My kids can eat candy ON Halloween, and then they trade in whatever’s left for credit toward a toy they really want. The more candy left over, the more to spend. I don’t think anyone learns self-control simply by being told not to do something.
Teaching self-control by giving children addictive “foods” made of lab experiment chemicals that disrupt the body’s natural processes? No thank you! These “foods” are addictive and cause cravings and in many children also cause mood swings, behavior issues, on and on and on. Should we allow our children just a “moderate” amount of heroin once a year, just to teach them self-control?
Additionally, it’s almost never “once” a year…if your child is in school or goes to church or is in sports or Girl Scouts or has any friends (birthday parties!!) then they are surely getting candy (and/or other fake food) many times a year.
Or you could send the daddy in disguise in your neighbourhood first. He gives discretly to the people in the house, some healthy candy and explain just that your kid is violently allergic to something. 5mn later you come with the kid and they give him your own candy. Machiavelic…
Halloween is not very popular in France. I hope it will stay that way and avoid the problem later.
Jennifer L. says
It’s way off season to comment on this, but I have to say no to letting my young kids indulge in Halloween candy even for the day. They look to us to model good eating habits and saying yes to anything with artificial colorings/dyes or high fructose corn syrup just isn’t happening, no matter how good it tastes in the mouth. Everyone always says things like, “Oh, I wouldn’t want my kids to be the only ones not eating candy” or (worse) “Crap! What am I gonna do with our kids one day when they’re forced to be the only freaks at school not allowed to eat Halloween candy.” Uh, our kids certainly aren’t freaks for not partaking in the candy fest. We are coming to find ways to celebrate that do not involve mass amounts of candy. Our kids have the power to say no to crap food and marketing aimed at them. If we’re going to indulge in sweets (and we do sometimes), we’re going to stick with sweet things that are at least made of food ingredients. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to read the labels on the crap candy and wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to package it up and sell it as a consumable item in the first place. Kids understand the difference between food and not food. As they get bigger, we’ll start doing mold experiments where we leave some candy out for a month or a year and observe what happens. Maybe we’ll build mini houses out of it; make art collages out of the wrappers; paint with it? We certainly won’t eat it, but I am sure it has other uses. Tootie Rolls might make a good adhesive. As far as letting them learn through experience–they have plenty of time. I am not pretending we live in a box. When they go out and about, they can decide if they want to eat that, but right now, I’m happy to say they joyfully share in the glee of curiosity of lab-made-concoctions that are designed to be eaten. If they want to go on the all Twinkie diet in college, more power to them! As long as they’re too young to truly understand the effects of colorings and HFCS, it’s my job to keep it out of their mouths, even on holidays.
My kids have learned from experience that if they eat more than 2 mini candies, they will feel sick and not sleep well and will likely have a melt down, so they dont object to a 2 candy limit. I give them the option of choosing any 2 of their candies but remind them that food coloring isn’t food but rather chemicals that look pretty while hurting your brain (so they always choose chocolates). The rest they trade in for a toy. It has been a process. I have definitely done holidays with candy free for alls, and we’ve all learned that the kids (and therefore all of us) suffer when they overindulge. I try to keep things pretty balanced by letting them have healthy homemade sweets once or twice a week and keeping sweet fruits around for snacks or “desserts”.
Our kids came home with some candy from a Harvest Fair yesterday. My almost 4 year old picked out a couple of pieces and then asked me to put the rest in a jar on top of the fridge. Today she had forgotten about it. I really do believe that given the opportunities to be in control of their eating and listen to their bodies, they will make good decisions most of the time. The kids in high school and college that I knew that were binge junk eaters usually came from very healthy, very restrictive backgrounds.
This year will be our first year of no trick or treating. However, we will be taking part in a All Saints Day party at Church, where all the children will leave with a large bag of candy, so they don’t miss out. Since my oldest is five and my youngest two I have decided to take this a year at a time. In previous years I’ve showed them the bag of candy, then given them about five. They’ve always *thought* I’d given them all of it. They’ve been very happy, and had no idea I’d chucked the rest. My children are already learning that after Mass they may only have one cookie (those lovely concoctions sold by the dollar store, pretending to be real cookies) and a sandwich. Many of their friends make a meal out of their cookies… but most of those friends suffer from eczema, asthma, allergies, obesity, etc. I always remind my children that sugar is a treat and to be had in moderation. They seem fine with this. I never hear a grumble. So this year, since the candy is handed to the parents in brown paper bags (well I guess they don’t get THAT much, compared to trick or treaters) I have decided to swap out their bags without them knowing! I plan to bake up some yummy treats, made with whole wheat flour and coconut sugar. I will then put some of their candy in the bag and hand it to them once we’re in the van (like all their other friends get as well). I love the ideas for a candy swap for money for future years, but I’m ok with *tricking* them this year. I want my children to learn moderation, but not at the expense of their health at this young age. Last year after trick or treating we allowed our children to choose two treats after lunch for a week. By the end of the week they’d forgotten about it and their immune systems were just fine. I just cringe when after the Party at Church for the following few weeks all the children are sick. I’m actually ‘ok’ with the horrible ingredients for a special occasion, it’s just that post candy cold and flu that I really don’t want! Thanks for the great tips Emily!
I was so happy to hear of other mama’s who are NOT allowing their kids to eat the junk on Halloween. Thank you for your support! I’ve felt badly, as all my other very-well-eating/organic-food mama friends ARE letting their kids eat Halloween for the very – wonderful – reasons stated. They have even kindly and gently talked to me about how we don’t want our kids to be the “snicker hiding/unbalanced kids” we hear about. At the same time, I fear how my daughter may react after eating those bad foods. My instinct is that it will be a very bad few days for her/us afterwards. I’m not sure if it’s worth it for that! And, how to let her brother eat junk if she can’t?! So…I’ve just spend a lot of money buying all sorts of candy from the co-op (cute little all natural juice boxes, natural jelly beans, equal exchange dark chocolate, xylitol gum, etc.). When they come home from trick-or-treating, they can exchange each of the artificial laden candies they collect for one of the healthy candies… Really, I just wish that most people would hand out pencils, or glow sticks, or something rather than food!
Jennifer L. says
Mine hide their candy for the “candy gnome” or “Halloween Fairy” or “Candy Fairy” to take away and leave something else. They *LOVE* this. In the morning I leave some things they really like in a special bag–this year I might leave some raisins for the youngest since she loves them and they’re a rare treat, and a pomegranate and some small oranges. For my older one (6), she has been asking for a yo-yo (!–yay!–nice and easy!) and I swap out a more natural lollipop since she really likes them and maybe some not-so-scary gum since that is a treat reserved for airplane and long car rides. She will be totally over the moon about it all and on her own, she’ll divide and sort her loot to spread it out over the week, even though I tell her it’s hers and she could eat the whole box of gum if she wanted in one sitting. They really don’t want to eat the crap-tastic candy once we read the ingredients. After studying them for a while, I haven’t wanted to eat it either! But for all those who don’t think “moderation” can be taught without indulging in the candy industries’ finest holiday fest, well, enjoy it at least!
It sounds like some parents have kids who have reactions to dyes and sugars and I wholeheartedly support your decision to find other options for your child’s Halloween loot. I would do the same! There are also other parents who have children that have no adverse reactions (minus the sugar high and subsequent crash!), who otherwise consciously feed their children healthy meals, and Halloween provides an opportunity to teach their children about moderation and balance.
Every child is different and every mother knows her children best! Have a great holiday moms and most of all enjoy your precious kids. Mine are already growing up too quickly. :'(
We can try and it will work when they’re little, but I guarantee you that if you forbid foods, they will binge later and not know moderation.unless you intend to go live fully off the grid and away from society, they will eventually see the stuff. They will eventually be curious. And they will try it. Try to consider the benefit in teaching them that, despite the craving to go back for more, that one is enough for a rare treat.
And comparing candy to heroin? That’s waaaay to big a stretch. Sorry, but it’s true.
Anyway, bravo on the excellent post, I totally agree!
Jennifer L. says
The thing is, we’re not “forbidding” foods. It’s not food! By the time she is old enough to want to bury her head in a pile of Twinkies, she will be old enough to realize it isn’t food. It would have saved me a lot of teenage acne had someone been kind enough to point it out for me. We make nut butter cups that are far tastier than what Reese’s whips out in their lab. We make all the candy we hand out to the kids from real chocolate, real coconut oil, real nut butters, real honey…etc.
MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR; COCOA BUTTER; CHOCOLATE; NONFAT MILK; MILK FAT; LACTOSE; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER); PEANUTS; SUGAR; DEXTROSE; SALT; TBHQ (PRESERVATIVE)
Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ as it is more commonly referred to as, is in fact a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. PGPR–another cost-saving yummy addition to chocolate and peanut butter.
Mmmm, yummy, knowing that, my kids don’t *want* to eat it. It’s not about forbidding it–it’s about educating them. Sugar laden holidays are a great time to stand up against the companies pushing crap candy on our kids. It’s high time we think of alternatives because most of the kids eating peanut butter cups in excess are not living with parents reading this blog or keeping up with current nutrition trends. Of course, most kids eating well throughout the year can handle eating junk once in a while, but why do it to them? So they can fit in with their peers or mesh with society? Not be outcasts? Over a peanut butter cup?
How about a Starburst?
CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, APPLE JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, GELATIN, FOOD STARCH-MODIFIED, CITRIC ACID, LESS THAN 1.5% – PECTIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, COLORING (RED 40, YELLOW 5). GLUTEN-FREE.
It’s gluten-free! Yeah, I’m still stretching to find one good reason to make commercial Halloween candy an enticing “treat” for my kids. I keep our relatively non-toxic household cleaners out of reach of children because the kids really shouldn’t drink them–even if my toddler thinks it might be a good idea. She doesn’t yet have enough sense to know that window cleaner might not be good for her. Ditto with the “candy.” It’s colorful, but not good for people, even in moderation.
^I agree, great comment, Jennifer L!
SatI’m sorry, but it would seem evident that your children are younger and aren’t yet exposed to the natural curiosity of parental infaliabilty. Questioning for yourself is part of natural development into adulthood, and trust me, they will ask. Nothing can be more damaging to your goal of instilling good nutritional wisdom that placement of guilt. And while I whole-heartedly agree that those aforementioned things are not food, rather, they are chemical concoctions, as are all things if we address them molecularly. And while body damage can be done from harmful ingredients, the body can easily heal itself from a very occasional “cheat” which, in my assessment, is far better an option than fearing these “foods”…because stress and anxiety is FAR worse for your body.
We also prepare our foods, sweets included, from real, local, wholesome ingredients, as I’m sure most everyone reading this post does, but thank you for taking the time to type all of those candy ingredients. Your passion for nourishing choises is obvious, however, be cautious of the notion that you know how your children will react in the future, solely based on how they act now.
Again, thanks Holistic Squid for the excellent post, as well as the comments from many other nourishing food bloggers. 🙂
Tiny phone buttons…
Tracy TC says
We’ve certainly seen at our house time and time again that if we don’t make a big “no” deal out of things, our daughter has a lot less interest in them. She’s 11 now and every year without fail, we put her Halloween candy in the cupboard right away. She knows she can ask for it, and sometimes she does, but more often than not, she forgets about it and a couple weeks later I dump it.
Nothing like putting a big NO on something to make a kid spend time pondering the “why?”
While I don’t have children, I totally agree. I was appalled when reading the story that came out about the woman giving out notes to overweight children vs giving candy to thin children. I think we should be focusing on getting the sugar out of the diet the rest of the year, and enjoying this one day of the year with candy if you would like. When I eat candy or treats this time of the year, my goal is to enjoy it and never let guilt sneak in afterwards.
Lea @ The Maverick Mama says
Thank you for writing this post, Emily. As someone battling chronic health problems of epic proportions due to a lifetime of strikes against my inner wellness, every day I obsess over the pristine nature of my son’s diet. Sometimes I forget that he had a very different start to life than I did (born a month early vs born a week late, no hospitalizations or ear infections, etc), but I get paranoid when I remember our similarities (both c-section babies, and I only made it through a few months of breastfeeding with him). However, I feed him a ridiculously nutrient-rich Real Food diet and he’s had a nutritional gift I never did, and remembering to find balance is so important. I do fear he’ll be the “deprived” Coke & Snickers-stashing teenager, so I will definitely be taking your tips to heart!
Reading this article made me smile, and it was very interesting to read all the comments. As an adult who battles with an invisible illness (Cystic Fibrosis), getting the good food plus the high calorie food has been important in my health. As a child my parents raised us kids (3) with sugarless diets for about a year, very homeopathic and organic. As we got older and started to trick or treat we got to share our candy and eat it slowly over a course of time, learning self-control and excitement at the prospect of getting a treat. We also ate incredibly healthy meals throughout the year, so candy was a big treat! As I grew up and older, I have lost almost any desire for sweets. I enjoy them every once in awhile, but normally I don’t want them at all. I think all children are different, learning what works best for your family is important, and knowing we all grow up and our habits are shaped by the choices we make as young adults, I think is an important reminder. I stopped getting candy all together as a kid (in Easter baskets, at Christmas) bc I would hold onto it and never eat it, I was so used to saving it over time, it became a habit. I didn’t hide it, I just took so long to eat it, I forgot I had it. Anyway, hope everyone has fun this Halloween!