When it comes to Halloween, I'm a purist: I pass out chocolate and candy to trick-or-treaters and when my kids return home from going door to door, I watch my them dump their haul on the living room floor, sort it into categories, barter and trade with each other—and eat as much as they want that night. People think that because I'm a dietitian, I'm standing at the door handing out raisins and toothbrushes and confiscating my kids' candy. Not so. I think it's okay to celebrate some occasions with food. (Not for nothing, but if goodies aren't handed out every day for invented special occasions like soccer games, it's much easier to do this.)
But Halloween, like many other holidays, can turn into a weeks-long sugar fest. So it makes sense to put some sensible plans in place. Here's what I do:
I buy Halloween candy at the very last minute, usually the day of trick-or-treating. If I buy it weeks in advance when it first appears on store shelves, we're all eating fun-size candy bars every day—and I have to buy more.
I advocate for healthier school Halloween parties . Having a goodies-filled party the week or even day of trick-or-treating seems like overkill. And after organizing many class parties over the years, I've come to realize that games, decorations, and general fun far outweigh food for kids. Get fun, healthy, and easy ideas for class celebrations: 8 Healthy Treats For Halloween Class Parties
I play the Switch Witch. My kids have free reign on trick-or-treat night to eat what they want (which comes with the handy life lesson that sometimes you get a tummy ache after eating too many sweets!). Then they keep a pile of their favorites and leave the rest (the stuff they don't like or just don't prefer) for the Switch Witch. She arrives after they're asleep, takes the candy, and replaces it with a toy or game. (This is optional at my house, by the way, though my kids have always chosen to do it.) I like that it teaches them to value what they like best–but not waste time on the stuff they don't, simply because it's there. In our culture of omni-present junk, that's a useful skill.
I let my kids be in charge of their stash. In our house, we have a one-treat-a-day policy which works most of the time. You can have your treat whenever you want: in your lunchbox, after school, after dinner, even WITH dinner (read: Got Dessert-Obsessed Kids? This Solution Sounds Crazy—But It Works!). My two boys' Halloween stockpile is kept in separate bags in a cupboard they can access. We decide together what a reasonable portion is and they serve themselves. They don't obsess because they know they can have it.
You may do things differently, and that's okay. You may throw out everything with artificial colors, only buy GMO-free goodies, or hand out glow-sticks instead of chocolate. Maybe you donate all the candy to the troops, and your kids are fine with that. By all means, do your own thing, and do what works. Have a fun Halloween!
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.