Swedes have quite the sweet tooth. On average, they eat 35 pounds of candy each year (dailymeal.com). That’s roughly 1,418 more chocolate kisses consumed by Swedes a year than Americans.
“Lördagsgodis,” a Swedish word meaning “Saturday candy” is the Swede’s effort to control their nation’s intake of sweets. The thinking is that in order to curb daily candy consumption, they indulge in candy on Saturday. (dailymeal.com). They are disciplined through the week, because they know that Saturday is a sugar fest. Imagine, an entire day dedicated to eating candy!
In a way, Halloween is kind of an Americanized Lordagsgodis. We celebrate this day by indulging in candy. But, our version of the candy holiday doesn’t begin and end on the same day. Many children will end up with a candy haul that could carry them into the next century.
Halloween presents moms and dads with one of the most challenging parenting responsibilities of the year – how to peel their children away from the trick-or-treat bags.
Parents find themselves explaining ad nauseam why peanut butter cups don’t constitute a protein-packed breakfast and orange-flavored lollipops don’t count as a fruit.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to managing the candy haul. Some say you should let your children have a few pieces then donate or otherwise dispose of the remainder of candy. But, some argue that denying candy makes your child fixated on it.
Then, others say you should let your children eat and eat candy until they are (literally) sick of it. But is it wise parenting to let your child nearly eat himself into a coma, and perhaps miss school because his stomach is full of chocolates and gummies?
The answer is moderation. Of course, it’s much easier to say than it is to practice. According to the National Retail Federation, we’re spending $9 billion on Halloween candy, so thousands and thousands of parents are facing this same dilemma.
The time to teach your children about eating in moderation is not on Oct. 31. Like most of the respectable virtues that we try to instill in our children, they learn over time by watching us. When they see us grabbing a bowl of strawberries rather than a plate of cookies, they are more likely to grow up to do the same. If a diet soda and chocolate bar call your name every morning, you’ve modeled for your children your own version of the “Breakfast of Champions.”
A few last minute tips can help you out during this season of sugar:
n Wait until the last possible moment to purchase your trick-or-treat candy. If your children don’t have it, they can’t eat it.
n Be sure that your children eat a healthy meal or snack before going out trick-or-treating. Even lowfat cheese, yogurt or vegetable sticks and ranch are good options if your children are just too excited to sit for a full meal.
n When your children arrive back home with their stash, ask them to choose a few pieces (perhaps “x” number of pieces per age). These candies can be doled out on Halloween night and over the next several days.
n Store the extra candy some place where you don’t see it. It’s much too easy to grab candy when it’s displayed in a canister on your kitchen counter.
n Candies like chocolate bars can be frozen and saved for holiday baking or for S’mores.
n A big part of the fun of Halloween is dressing up and begging for candy. Invite your child to collect candy for someone else. Maybe he has a classmate who is ill or out of town and unable to trick-or-treat. Make a call to see if your child may donate candy to a pediatric ward of the hospital, food pantry or to a long-term care facility.
n Halloween isn’t just about the candy, it’s about the rituals. Trading candy with siblings and friends is a time-honored tradition. Many of us first practiced our skills in negotiating and compromise while sitting on the floor with crossed legs with our Halloween stash sprawled out in front of us.
There is no time like the present to start a tradition of better eating and oral health. Fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains and dairy are necessary for growing children. Find tips for integrating healthier eating into your family’s lifestyle at https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-mywins Also, opting for water rather than sugary drinks is good for your teeth and body. Every person should be brushing at least twice a day, and always after eating sticky or chewy candy.
Whether to eat Halloween candy over days or to inhale it all in one night is a choice. Children will learn from the Halloween experience, with some parental guidance, that decisions we make have repercussions or payoffs.
And, the boxes of raisins that come home with your trick-or-treaters are a sweet addition to a warm bowl of oatmeal on Nov. 1.
Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dune-brook, call 800-897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at email@example.com.