Emily and I take our daughters to the same music class on Thursday afternoons, and a couple of weeks ago, the teacher was encouraging the kids to find all the C notes on the piano keyboard. She passed out five M&Ms to each kid and told them to put a candy on each C key.
And, of course, they got to eat them afterward.
This was in addition to the graham cracker snack they got for singing their “doggy one chord” and the gumballs they got at the end of the class for good behavior.
For an adult, maybe that’s not a big deal. But for a little kid — and the mom who is working hard to not make sugar a bad habit — it’s a lot all at once!
Of course, we’re headed into the candy holiday season. It starts with Halloween, continues into Christmas and Hannukah, right on to Valentine’s day, and then Easter before we get a bit of a summer reprieve.
So how do you handle Halloween — and all the other sugar-heavy holidays that follow — without driving yourself crazy or giving up your values?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts.
I struggle with doling out candy, sweets, and dessert at my house, because they are a problem for me. I LOVE dessert! And I indulge in something, whether it’s a piece of quality dark chocolate or something less virtuous, almost every night.
And while I do want my daughter to understand the particular joy of a hot-from-the-oven homemade cookie, a special birthday treat, or the indulgence of a killer dessert at a fine restaurant, I DON’T want her to be ruled by sweets the way I often have found myself.
So I try to practice good habits around sweets the rest of the year, and let Halloween be what it is: a crazy, gorge-yourself candy fest.
I got this idea from the brilliant Dr. Dina Rose, and her blog (and book), It’s Not About Nutrition. She is heavily focused on teaching good habits, and letting the exceptions take care of themselves.
Here are some of her best suggestions:
- What you do all the time is more important than what you do on one day. So, if you already have a good game plan for how to handle sweets, don’t stress too much about those occasions when kids are almost certain to go overboard.
- Don’t give candy the power. I learned from Dr. Rose that trying to control and limit candy too much gives candy the power in a lot of ways: it makes kids want what they can’t have, prefer it over healthy foods (even ones they like), seek it out, feel guilty about wanting it, and learn that they only get to eat it when they’re already full. None of which is very healthy.
- Letting kids control their own candy teaches good habits. This is a hard one for me, especially when my daughter wants a mini Snickers bar for breakfast, but the payoffs as Dr. Rose describes them are worth it.
There are a few more tricks I’m trying this treat season as well:
- Limit the load. We don’t live in a very heavily trafficked neighborhood on Halloween, and for the past few years, we’ve had a lot of candy left over after all the little ghouls and goblins have gone to bed. My husband and I used to debate: do we buy the good stuff we like to eat (since we’re going to have left overs) or the stuff we don’t like to eat and toss it? But this year I came up with a third option: don’t buy candy. It sounds like a recipe for getting your house egged, but if you get cool goodies and toys, they don’t have to be edible. This year, I’m handing out glow sticks instead of candy.
- Buy better. If you are going to buy candy, make it better candy that’s less junky. Whole Foods Market has a selection of candies made with better ingredients, like dye-free candy corn, organic dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups from Justin’s, and gummies from Annie’s, all of which kids will love — and you’ll feel less guilty about.
3. Change the game plan. If you find yourself in charge of a Halloween party at home or at school, try changing up the focus away from food and sweets entirely! Decorate pumpkins, do relay races, paint faces, tell scary stories, even go bobbing for apples. It doesn’t have to be ALL about how much candy they can get.
Do you worry about how to handle Halloween (or is it just me???)? What are your strategies for keeping sane during the candy days? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.