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Ask an Expert: What to do with all this Halloween candy.

The bag is half empty. Your kid’s nerves are frayed. What to do with the last remaining pieces of Halloween candy? The answer is simple. Throw it away.

Yep, throw it away. It may take an entire year for your kids to go through their bag of Halloween candy, which should tell you something about what goes into that candy to keep it from going bad over an entire year.

And if it takes them less time than a year, then they’re eating too much candy in one day, and that sugar is going to lead to tummy aches, cavities, weight gain, and other stressors on their brains and bodies.

But I would be the mean nutritionist if I said do away with the candy all together. I don’t want to be a mean nutritionist. But, I will take a stand for you and your kids because I care about you and I don’t want Halloween to be the beginning of serious cravings, a compromised immune system, and an overall feeling of malaise and ill-health.

Now, this may be a big change for some of you. So here are a few tips to make the healthy transition a bit easier:

  • Start by having a family meeting. Be careful not to make it a serious meeting, which everyone will dread.
  • Set it up the meeting in a positive light, letting everyone know you’re making some changes – as a family – to promote healthier habits. Tell your kids you love them – with a smile. If it applies, include yourself as someone who, up until now, has not made the best choices around sugar and candy. Laugh a little and tell them that you’re making changes, too.
  • Easy does it. You’re a dead duck if you say, “OK, candy’s gone now! C’mon everyone, dump it out, here we go…hop to it!”

If you can follow my philosophy of Small Change, Big Impact™, you’ll find that the small changes will bring forth more changes, and then more changes, and so on.

The ensuing conversation could go like this (good for ages 4 to 16):

“OK, guys, you know how I love sugar? Well, it’s my job to teach you how to enjoy sugar in a way that lets you also take care of your body. So, today we’re going to do something a little different than we’ve done in years past around Halloween. We’re going to pick our 14 favorite pieces, and you can have one piece a day for 14 days, or two pieces a day for seven days. We’re going to throw the rest of the candy away. And in lieu of the candy, I’m going to give you: (You decide what you’d like to offer)

  • The dollar equivalent of the amount of candy you have
  • A special movie day with mom or dad
  • That new video game you’ve wanted
  • Some new crafts or items for your hobbies
  • A gift certificate to a toy or book store

What you’ve done here is let everyone know that you’re committed to the change. You are also not giving in to the negative mindset that “Sugar is BAD.” Sugar is not bad, it’s just not supportive of good health when you eat it every day. You are really saying that sugar is something to be regulated, which will make them feel better. Most importantly, you own your role as parent and take a stand for your kids so that they can live a healthy life.

If you feel it’s wasteful to throw away candy, think about when you need to throw away spoiled milk, or leftovers that have gone bad, or a toy that is too destroyed to donate. Yes, not so fun to throw this away, but it’s not serving you anymore, so why keep it around?

Same with candy. It doesn’t serve you. It’s spoiling your energy, making you feel bad, or destroying your teeth and cells. And by throwing away money spent on candy, you can rest easy knowing you’re not going to throw away money later on the cost of poor health.

When your kids eat their one or two pieces of candy per day, please teach them that it’s OK as a dessert or as a snack with a lean source of protein such as string cheese, a glass of milk, some nuts, or a piece of fruit or some veggies. These foods will help to balance their blood sugar from the candy intake.

You should also have them eat it outside of a meal, rather than packing it in their lunch for school. Mealtime is not candy time. If you set up this healthy habit now, then you are sending a subtle message that candy is reserved for special treats rather than having it look like it’s an OK option as part of a healthy meal.

If you have more questions, or would like to share your ideas or comments, please do in the box on the right. We would love to hear from you.

Now go have fun and enjoy your day ~

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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