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Published on October 26, 2016

Keeping Halloween happy for parents and healthy for children

Halloween is just around the corner and you may be worried about what to do with all that candy! You don't want to fight with your child, secretly dump it in the trash after they go to bed, or end up eating half of it yourself. So, how can you promote good nutrition and yet allow your child to have the candy, too?

Let your child make choices

There is a way to allow a child to eat what they want and it's supported by several experts on child nutrition, including Ellyn Satter, RD, and Dina Rose, PhD. Teach your child how to self-manage the candy. Allow your child to spread the treats out, look at them, categorize them, gloat over the stash and then taste them. Encourage your child to take bites of any (and every) type of candy that appeals to them. Allow them to chew and taste it to find out which they like and which they don't. If they don't like it, get rid of it - along with all the others like it. Then, after that first night have them put the candy away and save it for meal and/or snack times.

With this method, the child chooses whether to have a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert or as much as they want for snack time. If they can follow the rules, your child gets to keep control of the stash. Otherwise, you do. When they can manage it, they get it back. If you become concerned with how much candy your child is eating during snack time, ask them how their tummy feels. This brings them back in tune with their body – they can have more later and don't need to eat it all now. Offer milk with the candy, and you have a chance to get in some good nutrition, too.

Food is fuel

Now, this leads to the next important piece: 80/20 eating. Talk to your child about what foods are healthy to eat all the time (fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat milk products and minimally processed whole grains, etc.). These foods fuel their body, give them energy and should make up the 80 percent of our eating. Candy, sweets, and other "snack" foods are "sometimes foods" that do not provide much nutrition or fuel. These foods are not healthy to eat every day and that's why we only have them on special occasions, or 20 percent of our eating. Reiterate that food is for fuel and we should eat healthy foods most of the time. An 80/20 eating approach allows us to eat healthy most of the time, but indulge once in a while too.

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