It’s perhaps the favorite night of the year for children.
Maybe not so much for parents.
Halloween is the evening when kids get to dress up in costumes, walk around their neighborhood, and load up on free candy.
This can present a dilemma for parents who watch what their children eat, especially when it comes to sugar, but at the same time don’t want to completely spoil an evening of fun.
How do you handle the competing interests? In particular, what do you do with all those sweet treats your smiling children bring home?
What to Do with All That Candy
Healthline surveyed 515 readers for their thoughts on candy distribution and consumption.
Slightly more than half said they share (in other words, help eat) their children’s candy. This is part of the fun as well as a family tradition in many cases.
Another 21 percent admit to sneaking some candy out of their children’s bags.
Another 10 percent said they’re fine with their children having a one-night sugar binge. However, 6 percent don’t eat candy and don’t let their children have any either.
The attitudes toward Halloween candy seem to be somewhat different between the two current generations of parents.
In the Healthline survey, 64 percent of millennial parents said they’re more likely to share candy compared to 45 percent of Generation X parents.
Generation X parents, on the other hand, are twice as likely to secretly snatch some of their children’s candy. About 25 percent of the older parents said they do this compared to 12 percent of millennial parents.
Dina Rose, Ph.D., a sociologist and parent educator, said the survey results, for the most part, didn’t surprise her.
The only thing that raised her eyebrows was the 10 percent who said they are OK with the one-night sugar consumption. She thought that percentage would be higher.
“I kind of think that’s how most people feel,” she said.
She advises parents not to stress too much over Halloween evening. It’s more important to look at the big picture.
“Halloween is a blip,” Rose said. “It’s so much easier to handle than the daily onslaught of foods.”
Teach Children How to Choose
To be sure, sugar isn’t really a healthy food for anyone, especially children.
The researchers provided 43 Hispanic and African-American children with a nine-day diet similar to the one they normally eat, except they replaced sugars with starches.
The researchers made sure the children kept the same weight. At the end of the nine days, they reported on the youngsters’ metabolic measures. Things such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels were markedly improved.
Rose said that there’s little doubt sugar isn’t healthy, but she added neither is being overly strict about it. Denying children something just makes them want it more.
“Study after study has shown that forbidding a type of food is not the right strategy,” said Rose, the author of "It's Not About The Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids For a Lifetime of Healthy Eating."
She said it’s better to teach children how to make choices and how to incorporate sweet treats into an overall healthy diet.
On Halloween, she said, there are ways to avoid a fight over sugar.
“You need to take the power out of the candy and neutralize it,” she said.
One way to do that is to let the child have some candy that evening and then put the rest in a drawer. Tell the youngster they can now have one piece of candy a day as a substitute for another sweet such as cookies or ice cream.
Rose said her daughter stretched out her Halloween candy supply for almost a year using this technique.
Another is to offer a trade.
One year, Rose gave her daughter money in exchange for candy the youngster didn’t like that much. With the cash, the girl purchased candy she did like and put it in the drawer.
With this exchange, children are eating candy because they enjoy it and not just because it’s there.
“The question to ask is: Are you eating the candy you have or are you eating the candy you want?” Rose said.