Creative ways to prevent post-Halloween over-indulgence

Guest post by SaraBeth

Photo by ninahale, used under Creative Commons license.
A little while ago I found out about significant trickery surrounding my childhood Halloweens. Each and every year my mother would feed us a good, hot stick to your bones meal (think beef stew or chili) to make sure we’d have a solid meal before our journey into Candy Land. We would go off, get a crap load of candy, eat a ton of candy on Halloween night and then surrender our goods to the giant bowls of candy that would sit in the centre of our family dining room table. As we ran lower on candy, bowls would shrink until we were out of treats.

What I didn’t know, until very recently, was that my mother was secretly, gradually throwing a significant portion of our candy into the garbage to make sure that we weren’t indulging too much for too long. Generally all Halloween goods were gone well before Christmas season. As a trusting and obedient child I never suspected a thing. When we got older my mother began to throw out candy in front of my brother insisting that it had “gone bad.”

This isn’t an issue that we have to deal with this year, as my children will be visiting a total of five houses (two sets of grandparents and three neighbours mainly to show off their costumes), but it’s something to consider for the future. When I complained to my partner Chris about my mother’s confection deception he shrugged and told me that growing up he ate a lot of candy that he didn’t even like after Halloween simply because it was there.

So what can you do to limit the amount of candy you (I know how much candy I eat on Halloween night when I give out treats and can only imagine the candicopia headed our way) and your child consume following Halloween? Here are some solutions I found/worked out which will lead to a healthier November for kids and parents beyond my own mother’s tough love method to healthy eating.

The Halloween Witch

The Halloween Witch is a household tradition for Baby Gourmet found Jennifer Carlson and her children Eamon and Findlay. Trick-or-treating is an experience that children love and Jen knew it would be very difficult (and disappointing for the kids!) to convince them not to participate – yet she was concerned about them eating big bags of candy. Eamon and Findlay have fun picking out their 10-15 favourite treats to keep and then they leave the rest of their candy next to the fireplace. The Halloween Witch visits their home each year and takes away the candy in exchange for a new present. Jen’s children enjoy the whole of experience of Halloween without the lingering damage to their nutritional plan.

The Cons:

  • You’re lying to your kid.
  • You need to go out and purchase replacement treats and create yet another hallmark holiday.

The Switch Witch

This is an online version I found that is a bit different then the one above. The Switch Witch is coined as an eco-fairy who comes on November 1st and takes away the most-offensive candy and replaces them with healthier surprises.

The Cons:

  • You’re still lying to your kid.
  • You need to go out and purchase replacement treats.

Candy Creations

Encourage your children to play with their food by letting them do experiments to turn their candy into science projects, art work or jewellery.

The Cons:

  • Some candy will get consumed in the making of the crafts.
  • It encourages wasting and playing with food.
  • Your kids could burn down your house creating a candy experiment or try to eat a varnish covered candy off of their bracelet.

Sharing is Caring

Why not encourage your kids to select some treats for mom and dad to bring into work and share with coworkers, give a goodie bag to the bus driver, postal worker, hair dresser, barber and the grandparents. Check and see if your local food bank will accept donations of wrapped candies.

The Cons

  • You have to negotiate with a child caught midst a CANDY CANDY CANDY state of mind with no pay off but kindness. Think negotiating with Cookie Monster at the Christie factory outlet.

I’m open for other suggestions and comments and will probably entertain a combination of a few of the above methods. At least I have another few years to prepare for Candygeddon.

Comments on Creative ways to prevent post-Halloween over-indulgence

  1. There’s a dentist here in town who “buys” candy back from kids (I think they pay a dollar per pound) and sends what they get in care packages to soldiers. This is nice because kids still get to trick or treat, and can maybe do something nice for someone who is far from home.

  2. I dislike any plans that involve throwing out candy or taking candy away from kids without their consent. Deception doesn’t seem like the best plan either. Donating candy is a good plan if you need to get some out of your house, and the dentist buyback programs where they send candy to soldiers seems like a win-win sort of situation.

    However, if you can manage an “out of sight out of mind”, why not just put the candy away and give it to the kids a little at a time after allowing them their Halloween day (and maybe the day after) binge? You’d have treats to give them for months without having to buy more sweet things. If there are specific types of candy you don’t want your kids to eat, pick out those types before storing the candy and donate them if possible. Or just bring them to work. Adults like Halloween candy too! I always liked it when parents brought in excess Halloween candy the day afterwards to share with the office.

    • This is totally what we did when I was a kid. We did a major candy sort that night. Candy was divided up into stuff Mum liked, stuff Dad liked, stuff nobody liked and stuff I liked. I got a few pieces right away, and then the rest went in a bag in the cupboard. It lasted longer than I thought it would, even with me sneaking some. You could even divide it up into packages to dole out (use an elastic or string or something if you aren’t a baggie person).

    • This is exactly what my mom did – she put it on top of the fridge where my brother and I couldn’t get to it.

      And then the other day she said, “Oh, you and your brother were so good! You could always make your candy last past Thanksgiving!” Um, I don’t think we would have done that on our own… >_>

  3. I can’t believe your parents got away with that! I had my whole supply counted, double counted and divided into baggies according to type and quality. If ANYTHING had gone missing I would have known. My cousin actually kept his Halloween candy in a locked box. Sugar addiction much? Who knew I’d grow up to be a whole food gluten free vegan…

    I like the switch witch idea the best. Even at a very young age I was a negotiator. There would have HAD to been something in it for me.

    • Haha, I was exactly the same way!

      However, I have a peanut allergy, so I couldn’t eat a good 1/3 of my haul. My dad got all my Snickers, Reese’s, etc. 🙂

  4. I really see no reason to employ any of these methods. I can’t get behind deception or confiscation. If kids ask to take their candy to a dentist for their program, fine. Otherwise, they eat the candy. And…what? Nothing. Maybe they get sick and throw up. Next time they won’t eat so much. Maybe they stash it under their bed until Christmas. That’s what I did. At that point, I let my brother eat it. A child with a sack of candy isn’t going to die. It only happens once a year and kids have been doing it for decades. Nothing horrible comes of it.

    • I think it probably depends on the child. I competed with my brother to get the most candy, hid my candy from my parents, binged on it, stole my brother’s candy, lied about how much I ate, etc. I’m not saying that I blame everything on Halloween at ALL, but I grew up to have some serious issues around eating and looking back, Halloween definitely helped lay the groundwork for some of them. I also want to say it wasn’t my mom’s fault either! She’s actually a nutritionist and tried everything to help me develop positive attitudes toward eating…none of it worked. So to say nothing horrible can come of it might be a little too dismissive. Obviously a “do nothing” approach will work with a lot of kids, but some might need some help with impulse control and creative solutions can’t hurt.

    • Higher consumption of sugar is linked with a lot of health risks including obesity, heart disease and cancer. I can totally understand parents wanting to limit their children’s intake. Just because kids have been doing it for decades doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

        • It’s not just a yearly binge though. Some kids manage to collect a TON of candy. I remember coming home with a pillowcase half full of the stuff. So that could easily last weeks. And if the kid is allowed to keep it under their bed or whatever, they could be hastening tooth decay in addition to all of the other potential problems. Excuse me, but I don’t want to pay for fillings. Impulse control needs to be taught; it is not innate, and, additionally, research has show strong correlations between the consumption of sugar and impulse control in both kids and adults.

  5. We do a big meal, too! Our Halloween tradition is a huge pot of chili, with enough to share with our friends who stop by.

    I let the kids eat as much candy as they want on Halloween. Surprisingly, it’s not that much (my girls are 7 and 2). After that, the candy stays on a high shelf in the pantry and they have to ask for it. They can pretty much eat it whenever, as long as they share a piece with me 🙂

  6. I think the holidays are a perfect time to let kids figure out from themselves how much they want to eat, and what. Like someone above said, yes, some kids might eat themselves sick, but most wont. Keep the candy out where they can see it and have access to treats after meals or in their school lunches and then it doesn’t become negative and forbidden fruit. It’s restriction that makes things extra inticing, right? So don’t restrict (and keep the toothbrush handy!)

    • This is what my parents did with me. After trick or treating was done, we would pour out all my candy on the table, and my mom would ask me to sort it. Any candy I identified as something I didn’t like, she asked if I would like to give to my dad/her/someone (or if trick or treaters were still coming to our house, she’d let me add it to the pot of giveaway candy). this reduced my haul by a lot, but it was my choice to give up/give away. Also, since most little kids like being able to give presents, I would sometimes choose to share some of my favorite candies with my parents as well… further reducing my load, but all entirely my choice.

      Then the candy was put out in a big bowl for me to eat (as long as I had already eaten a real meal), and my mom would tuck pieces in my school lunches until it ran out. Mine always lasted a long time, but candy was never a forbidden thing that I had to pretend not to want or something.

      By the time I was old enough to trick or treat without parents trailing my pack of friends, I would put almost all of the candy from my own haul into the giveaway pot when I got home for other trick or treaters. The going out in costume was always the most fun for me, so keeping the candy at that age did not seem so important. since candy wasn’t a rarity, I never felt desperate to hang onto it or hoard/binge on it.

  7. Though we’re still a few years out from this, I think I’ll probably let my kid save the favourite candy (maybe about half of it), and the rest package up into sandwich bags, and distribute to homeless people – we’re exposed to a lot of homeless people in our city using the public transit system. I definitely ate a lot of Halloween candy that I didn’t even enjoy that much as a kid, and I’d like to think I would have been ok with giving some of it away.

    • yes! sorting my halloween candy after a night of trick or treating was a favorite ritual for me as a kid… it really did cut my haul down by quite a bit, but it’s a great counting exercise for younger kids and just a fun thing to do when they’re older. Sometimes a certain treat will make a kid remember a highlight from the night & it’s fun for kids to retell the experience as they’re sorting the candy.

  8. My mom let us have all we wanted – as a result, by day 3 or 4, candy was repulsive. I ruined Almond Joys (previously my favorite candies) for YEARS this way. I think this was an overall positive thing, though? It only took two or three years of this before I learned to take even my favorite foods in moderation.

    That said, I love the idea of the Halloween Witch. I might have a pretend witch for myself this year.

    • I like the idea of the Halloween Witch as well, although I think I would want to make it optional. I feel like allowing the child to feel they have control over what they do with their candy is key.

  9. we limit the trick or treating to avoid having too much at the house. and then we also do like one piece a day and use extra to make little thank you bags through out the next few weeks (its not only holiday season, but birthday season in our family) over all i think it works well, goober girl gets some sweets, and learns moderation and sharing.

  10. Growing up my mom only employed 2 methods:

    1. eat a big filling dinner before trick-or-treating

    2. you must share with your dad

    She never restricted us, or took our candy away. Our Halloween always went like this…

    My sisters and I would eat a big dinner, then a parent would take us out. When we were done for the night, we’d all come back and dump all of our candy onto the floor. Then we would organize our candy, and our dad would come by and take a few things that he wanted. Then it was trading time. My sisters and I would haggle each other for different candies (“I’ll give you two Oh Henry’s for a Mars bar!” Mars bars were always coveted). Then we were allowed to eat a few pieces of candy before bed. We kept our pillowcases of candy in our bedrooms.

    In the days and weeks after Halloween, my parents would take a candy from our stashes every once and a while, and we were allowed to pack 2 pieces in our lunches. My mom would also say, “Don’t eat too much candy or you’ll ruin your appetite.” And sometimes we did, but then we felt sick and learned our lessons.

    Basically, I learned to ration my candy. I know I binged a few times as a kid, but that was a learning experience. I’ll do the same for my kid.

    But if you have a kid with control issues, then maybe a more controlling method is needed.

    • This is very close to what we did! The only difference was that instead of adding candy to lunch – or to dessert, or to a snack, or whatever – I had to make the choice to substitute it for something else. Two pieces of Halloween candy meant no dessert after dinner, or no chips with lunch, or a fruit-only breakfast. I got to pick the substitution, which was really clever for a kid who otherwise had a tough time making good choices about food. Sharing, and having fairly candy-crazed parents, definitely helped!

  11. When my sister and I were younger, we would just visit family’s houses for Halloween, and between my dental assistant aunt who gave out sugar free gum, my Nana who gave out homemade fruit leather, and that one family friend who always only had raisins, we never got too much candy.
    As we got older and got more candy, my mom would let us keep what we wanted (just chocolate for me – I don’t like hard or gummy candy) and put away the rest. Sometimes she’d give us a few dollars for that not-wanted candy. We’d use the candy we didn’t want to make gingerbread houses at Christmas. We never ate our houses, and by then the candy was pretty old, and not our favourite to begin it. As for the candy we kept, we did what we wanted with it, but since sweets were a rarity in our home, my sister and I liked to make it last and would only eat a couple pieces a day.

  12. My first thought with the Halloween Witch, before I finished reading about it was that we exchange the candy with the evil witch for our LIVES!!!

    Which is ridiculous ’cause witches they were persecuted, wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here.

  13. My parents and I used a kind of advent calendar type system, where I would sort my candy into like three a day compartments, and then eat it at that rate only. It doesn’t solve the “ALL OF THE CANDY ALL OF THE TIME!” thing, but since we were a generally healthy eatting house, this was usually my only “treats” in lunches, and so it lasted well into the New Year. still lots of candy. but well spaced out.

  14. We had the “Halloween Candy Fairy” and I loved it. I got 6 Boxcar Children books in exchange for my candy one year, and enjoyed them far more than the candy.

  15. I took half of my daughter’s candy by the local rescue squad. (She’s 14 months old, this was more for our fun…) I called it a thank you treat. They loved it.

  16. Our food bank seeks candy donations and adds the treats to family meal bags throughout the year. Children’s hospitals might also accept candy. I plan to teach my daughter about sharing by donating some of her candy when she’s older.

  17. We have dentists in our city that buy back candy. My son loves it! He is actually pretty selective about the candy he likes, but he loves the whole trick-or-treat experience. He picks out what candy he actually likes and the rest goes to the dentist and he gets money for it. Plus, he loves the idea that his candy will be sent to soldiers over seas.

  18. A friend of mine and her sisters never ate any refined sugar until they turned ten – they would go trick or treating, and their mother would weigh their haul and buy them the weight in books (6 lbs of candy means 6 new books) and then they’d donate the candy to a kid’s shelter or group home.

  19. We had a limit – 2 or three pieces per day until it was gone – but essentially the candy replaced other treats for lunchtime or after supper desserts – so instead of a pudding cup or Joe Louis or couple of cookies at school, it’d be a mini-snickers or a tootsie roll.

  20. we have a very simple rule: halloween candy is for halloween. they can eat *as much candy as they want* sitting in a pile of it on the floor after the trick-or-treating, and then it is gone.

    our kids are really young, so that sort of thing is pretty simple, but i also think that the rule made for a really pleasant holiday, and i am likely to continue it with older kids (although once old enough to scheme, it could backfire by ramping up the binging, so it’s open to change).

    but i think it helped make the holiday about doing something fun as a family, having awesome costumes, and the joy of the trick-or-treating, and not focussed on obtaining stuff and on consumption and proprietary ownership of stuff that was given to you freely. those things are important to me, more so than limiting their sugar intake (which is important to me for health reasons, but it also drastically affects their personalities/behavior in crappy ways).

  21. I liked my mother’s strategies. After the “parental check” of candies to ensure they were safe (and to steal back the “you’re going to hell” pamphlet from the lady down the street who gave them out every year… *whistle*) she then had us count the number of pieces we got. Then we had to calculate 10% of that for the “Dad Tax”. Now, Dad Tax was what my father received in payment for checking the candy, taking us out trick-or-treating, and beyond riffing my father for it in fun, we always accepted that it was fair trade. (In fact, I was shocked to grow up and realize- hey, Dad Tax aint no thing…)

    So, 10% of the haul eliminated, my mother took all the gum away- because she hated what it did to the furniture/our hair, etc. So again, we were okay with her taking all of one brand of candy she deemed offensive.

    Then the remainder of the haul went through 3 stages:

    Stage One: Bartering. Ah, the fun of trading for more desirable candies among siblings.

    Stage Two: Trading with Mom. This kind of makes me think of the “Witch” ideas given above, except no trickery. We weren’t lied to about a witch coming to get the candy, we were bribed with nice things we wanted, like “Who doesn’t have to set the table tonight” or “Who gets front seat tomorrow”, etc. She’d offer a price- four pieces of candy, and we’d trade away.

    Stage Three: The candy that survived Dad Tax, Bubble Gum Exodus, and Trade Away was always our own particular favorites. The treasured few that we valued all the more because we wouldn’t trade it for anything. It set up a value system, for one, and had us make choices and problem solve to get to that end result.

    (PS- unofficial Stage Four: hide the loot. Four siblings can find ANYTHING. I still find old toys with pixie sticks hidden in them…)

  22. One thing that a family I nannied for did, that worked really well for them, was have a treat box. All the candy they got for anything, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, et cetera, went into one big box, and every day after lunch (during their TV time usually) they got a sweet. If we made cupcakes or popsicles or something like that they could have one of those, or they could choose one item from the treat box. The kids had had the system in place pretty much since they started getting free candy, so it was never a travesty to only get one piece a day (which it would have been in my house while I was growing up).
    When I was growing up my parents would drive my brother and I to a nearby neighborhood (ours didn’t have streetlights) and let us trick or treat as long as we wanted. The catch was that the other neighborhood had HUGE lots, and was pretty much all hills so to hit 10 houses might take half an hour running all the way. We always ended up with less candy in general because we got tired fairly quickly. Then once we got home we could eat as much as we wanted whenever we wanted. The last part probably wasn’t the best, but the hilly neighborhood was a brilliant plan on my parents’ part.

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