For most children, collecting candy by the bagful is one of the biggest treats about Halloween. For parents, the biggest trick is getting kids to eat as little of that candy as possible.
“Candy has never been good for kids," said Dr. Jody Navitsky, a physician on JustAnswer. "But now in 2012, when levels of pediatric obesity have reached epidemic proportions, it is exactly what most kids don't need."
The freezer trick
Dr. Jennifer Hanes, another physician on JustAnswer, suggested putting the collected candy in the freezer in several small bags as an easy way to limit how much kids eat. The strategy has additional advantages:
- Out of sight, out of mind. Kids are less likely to remember if the candy is in the freezer.
- Keeping the candy frozen requires either thawing it first or eating it slowly, which will cut down consumption.
- Most importantly -- and the main reason to share with your children -- freezing the candy "will keep it fresh longer."
The slow siphon
Young children may get caught up in the moment and not realize how much candy they have, said Dr. Navitsky. You may also capitalize on their short memories.
Give them one or two pieces of candy on Halloween night. She added: "Let them have a piece after a meal the next day or two, then start siphoning off the candy -- to a parent's workplace or even the garbage."
Put the candy out of sight, and selectively ignore it or respond when asked: "Not today, but maybe tomorrow." Over time they should forget about it, she said.
A firm but charitable hand
"Older kids need to be told they can pick a certain number of candies that are favorites and eat them over the course of a week or so (controlled by the parents)," Dr. Navitsky said. "Then tell them the rest will be donated elsewhere. Period."
This could be a way to teach them about the joy of helping others. Or you could focus on how much fun it was to spend time together as a family while trick-or-treating or on what to wear next year, she said.
Dr. Hanes, who also wrote the forthcoming book "The Princess Plan" about weight loss, said that offering goodies other than candy can also help.
"This year our house is passing out temporary tattoos, spooky erasers, and trinket jewelry along with candy," she said. Her healthy food treats include individual bags of pretzels or mini bags of microwave popcorn.
As a final note, both physicians urged caring for children's teeth during Halloween.
"Do ensure that your kids continue immaculate dental hygiene to prevent those sugary delights from causing decay," said Dr. Hanes.