The Scoop on Food

Why You Shouldn't Throw Away Your Child's Easter Candy

It's tempting to trash your kid's sweet stash after a few days. Here's why keeping all that sugar around can help your child in the long run.

Peep Treats Cottontail Cake Rainbow Marshmallow Boarder Tara Donne
It's almost Easter, and we're all bracing for the onslaught of marshmallow bunnies, jelly beans, and chocolate eggs. I know the sugar overload can be brutal. And I know that it's tempting to just get rid of it all. I hear from parents all the time who toss their kids' candy after a few days. If you're one of them, I think you should reconsider.

Believe me, I get it. After visits with two sets of grandparents, we have a mountain of candy in our house post-holiday. When my kids were younger, I used to leave behind several pieces in the cupboard and send the rest to my husband's office on the sly. But at some point, I changed my mind—not only because my kids got old enough to wonder what happened to 85 percent of their candy, but also because I put myself in their shoes. How would I have felt if my parents had unceremoniously chucked my Easter stash?

Throwing out your kid's candy sends your child two messages: You don't trust THEM around food, and they can't trust YOU around their food. Learning to manage sweets is a life skill your child needs to learn, so you might as well let them practice, and you might as well start early.

So what does that look like? For me, it means letting my kids have what they want on the holiday itself, whether that's Easter or Halloween. (If they get a stomachache from overdoing it, that's a valuable learning opportunity!) Then the candy is put into a bag labeled with their name and placed in a cupboard. They eat a couple pieces a day until it's gone—or until they forget about it, it goes stale, and I ask them if they still want it (usually they don't) when I'm cleaning out the cupboard. You may have different ideas about what's reasonable, so talk to your kids about what you (and they) think is fair and establish some guidelines on managing their stash.

Some communities have opportunities to donate candy to troops or do dentist buy-backs, but only go this route if your child genuinely wants to hand it over. With my kids' blessing, we sometimes turn extra chocolate bunnies into goodies like chocolate chip pancakes, muffins, or melted chocolate for dipping strawberries.

And if you feel like your kids are truly out of control around their Easter candy stash long after the holiday itself is over, that may be a sign of a broader issue around sweets and treats. If your child is gorging on her Easter candy or sneaking it, talk to her (without anger or judgment) about what's going on. It could be that she feels deprived of sweets outside of the holidays, which is something you can talk about together and reach a compromise on that you both feel good about.

Lastly, it may go without saying, but if you really want to curtail your child's holiday candy intake, buy less candy. Tuck a few items they love into their Easter baskets and then fill plastic eggs with stickers or quarters or something else they would be excited to get. If your kids receive a ton of candy from well-meaning relatives, explain politely (and discreetly) that you're cutting back a bit and see if they're amenable to scaling back too.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.