How I Handle Halloween Candy Craziness

How I Handle Halloween Candy Craziness by Real Mom NutritionMy name is Sally. I’m a dietitian. And I hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

In the past, I’ve doled out bags of pretzels, small tubs of Play-Doh, and sheets of stickers too (and see nothing wrong with going that route). But mostly, we hand out candy. Usually chocolate.

If you’re a regular on this blog, you know I can get riled up about junk food. Especially when it’s on the sidelines of kids’ sports every weekend (read: Soccer Mom Soapbox). I’m that mom calling the summer camp director to ask about switching from Powerade to water. I’m the lady stopping at the front desk of the rec center to chat about the junk in the vending machine. I even advocate for healthier school Halloween parties (read: 8 Healthy Treats For Halloween Class Parties).

Yet when it comes to trick-or-treating, I’m cool with candy. Why? Because I think it’s okay to celebrate some occasions with food. (If goodies aren’t handed out every day for made-up special occasions like t-ball practice, it’s easier to do this.)

But I also know that trick-or-treating can spiral into candy craziness, so here’s how I make it work in our house:

1.  I wait until the very last minute to buy candy. Ideally, I’m at the store at 3pm on the day of trick-or-treating. Once upon a time, I made the tragic error of buying Halloween candy in advance, which of course meant we ate it, bought more, ate that, and bought more.

2. I give my kids free reign. We eat dinner before trick-or-treating, then all bets are off. They can eat as much as they want, which often comes with its own handy life lesson: If you eat too many sweets, sometimes your belly hurts and you feel gross.

3. I play the Switch Witch. After my kids return home to dump and sort their stash, they reserve a pile of their favorites. The rest (the stuff they don’t like or don’t like very much) goes into a bowl on the dining room table. While they’re sleeping, the Switch Witch arrives to take the candy and replace it with a toy or game. This is optional at my house. My kids aren’t forced to turn over their candy, and last year they kept a pretty sizeable amount. I know not everyone is a fan of the Switch Witch (read Red, Round or Green’s take in this post, “Switching Off“). But I like that this fun tradition teaches them to value what they like best–but not waste time on the stuff they don’t, simply because it’s there. In our culture of omni-present junk, that’s a useful skill.

4. I put them in charge of their stash. In our house, we have a one-treat-a-day policy which works most of the time. You can have your treat whenever you want: in your lunchbox, after school, after dinner, even WITH dinner. My two boys’ Halloween candy is kept in separate bags in a cupboard they can access. We decide together what a reasonable portion is (usually a fun-size bar or two small pieces of candy) and they serve themselves. They don’t obsess. There’s no sneaking of candy.  (Well, sometimes I sneak a piece and get caught when one of them finds the wrapper in my office garbage can.)

So that’s how it’s done in our house because this seems to work well (for now at least!). You may do things differently, and that’s okay. You may toss out everything with artificial colors, only buy GMO-free goodies, or hand out temporary tattoos. Or maybe you’re that fabled house with the full size candy bars. By all means, do your own thing.

But if you sneak your kids’ candy, do a better job than me of hiding the evidence.

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    • says

      Thank you Casey! I love this line in your post: “Brianne and I may come to different conclusions but we’ve thought about what’s best for our children instead of just blindly following culture and tradition.” That’s what it’s all about!

  1. says

    I love all of these tips – such great ideas! I’m also an RD and don’t have issues passing out candy on Halloween. My son is only 18 months so we won’t have to worry about him noticing when his candy “disappears” after he goes to bed 🙂 I already know I’ll be the mom talking to teachers about healthier party foods and other soccer moms about after game snacks etc… Glad I’m not the only one!!

  2. says

    We aren’t giving out candy this year. I bought glow in the dark fangs and glow stick bracelets. Last year we gave out tattoos. But I let my kids go nuts on Halloween, and they’re allowed to have one candy per day from the bucket until it runs out – they choose when. I should add though, that they select about 10-15 candies that they give to the Candy Fairy on Halloween night. They leave these candies under their pillows and the Candy Fairy takes them and replaces them with something like an eraser, or a new pen or some small toy.
    You’d think that the bucket would last until spring but somehow my kids are bored of the candy before the holidays – and they get sort of freaked out by the concept of candy-gone-stale, so they’re willing to throw out candy after a certain point.
    My kids love Halloween. I cringe about all the candy but I go with the flow and try to stay calm about the whole thing.

    • says

      Glow in the dark fangs? How cool! I also find that my kids get kind of bored with it after a while. They have their piece or two most days, but they aren’t obsessive about it. And my older son’s stash will probably last months (he still has Easter candy kicking around in the cabinet!). Like you, I try to “go with the flow and stay calm”. 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  3. says

    Sally, I like how you handle your Halloween policy. Over the years I’ve tried to figure out what would be best for our family. So the last two years I tried something that works for us. We take our kids out trick or treating early. Then when we get home the kids give their candy away to the tick or treaters that come to our house. The kids pick a few pieces to keep and the rest get given away, and I don’t have to buy candy. The parents will have to decide what to do with their kids candy.

  4. Pam says

    great post. We did the switch witch last year and loved it! My kids were happy, I was happy. Friends copied. I can’t wait to see what she brings this year!

    • says

      Thanks Heather! There may come a day when they’d rather keep their entire stash than hand some over, and that’s okay. It’s fun while it lasts!

  5. Susan says

    My dentist told me from a dental perspective, it’s better to let kids eat all they want in one night, then brush really really well, then be constantly eating little bits of candy for month later and NOT brushing afterwards.

  6. says

    My kids’ dentist pays them for the candy they bring in, by the pound. That’s right, actual CASH. So they pick out only the very best, and the rest gets turned in for money. I call that a win-win!

  7. Stacy says

    We let our girls fill a small bowl of their favorites. That means they get a piece or two of their choosing for dessert for about a week. The rest goes to my office for the hoards or, frankly, the trash.

  8. says

    Great advice as always, Sally! Love your blog! 🙂

    I mentioned the Switch Witch to my nearly 3 yo yesterday and his response? “No, thank you. I think I really like candy.” 😉 Cuties, at least he gives it to me straight!


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