A candy-stealing, dietitian-mom guide on how to have a fun (and guilt-free) Halloween
Chances are if you’re reading this you feel some sort of guilt around Halloween or have totally snuck into your kids’ Halloween stash? Don’t worry, we’ve alllll done it. So, as a parent (ahem…and some of us chocoholics) who will now be surrounded by little packages of chocolate and candy, how do you enjoy the overload of candy in a healthy way without all the guilt? Step one – stop feeling guilty, and step two – read on.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth or struggle with sugar cravings, the good ol’ “out of sight, out of mind” mentality doesn’t work around this time of year. The candy is everywhere! And kids go to bed at 7:30 or 8pm! EEK. In order to help you not pull a Jimmy Kimmel – I’ve included a few tips and tricks below to help you mindfully navigate the candy overload situation, and to help you maintain a healthy relationship with food.
Allow yourself to indulge – guilt-free
You heard me. Indulging in your favourite foods is important. This can be hard for many of us who have “dieted” in the past or restrict ourselves from eating desserts, candy, chips, etc. When we do this, it just makes us crazy those foods even more, and what ends up happening a lot of the time is we OVER-indulge on them (or something else) later. So if you’re having a true craving for that little Coffee Crisp that is calling your name, HAVE IT. Just eat it, enjoy it and savour it. Period. Give yourself permission to indulge in your favourite Halloween candy, GUILT-FREE!
Here’s my personal caveat on this: be selective. Sure I love Halloween candy, but I don’t love ALLLL Halloween candy. So pick your favourite and enjoy. Allow your kids to see you enjoying and consuming Halloween treats because children need to know that it’s normal and healthy to enjoy treats. My kids see me eating Halloween candy out in the open at snack time or dessert. But let’s be honest – they may occasionally ask “mommy – whatchu got in your mouth”. Busted.
Take a good look at your overall diet
Let’s be real. As an adult you can choose your own food. I remember being a kid and promising myself that “adult me” would eat a whole bowl of sugar – no questions asked. Thankfully, my sweet tooth subsided and my healthy relationship with food began. But honestly – if you chose to only eat pizza seven days a week you could! This is not going to make you feel good – emotionally or physically. To help you battle sugar cravings, or the desire to steal your kids Halloween candy, what you actually need to do is take a close look at all the other food you consume throughout the day and make sure you are including a few key things:
- Protein and dietary fat. Both protein and fat are digested slowly in the body, which provides a sense of fullness and satiety. This means you’ll be fuller longer, your blood sugar level won’t be all over the place, and you’ll likely not have so many cravings throughout the day. Both protein and fat come from animal-based sources like meat, eggs and dairy. Plant-based sources such as legumes, lentils and tofu contain protein and nuts and seeds contain both protein and fat. Make sure to include a protein and fat in all meals, and include at least one in your snacks too! For example, add a couple boiled eggs and seeds on top of a salad, have a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit for snack, and include shredded chicken and a bit of cheese with dinner!
- Fibre. Fibre is the indigestible carbohydrate in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. It’s not digested (it goes through us), and it helps to keep us fuller longer and stabilize our blood sugar level. All you need to remember is that fibre is fantastic! Fibre can be broken down into two different types – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre reacts with water in the body making a viscous (or gel-like substance), this means slower digestion and more controlled blood sugar! My favourite source of soluble fibre is oatmeal to start my day. I feel fuelled for the struggle to get out of the house in the morning and ready to tackle my day. Insoluble fibre is another great form of fibre, but it doesn’t react with water and is indigestible. Which basically means – this type of fibre adds the “bulk” to your poop!
- Filling Snacks. I don’t always snack in between meals (sometimes I’m simply not hungry!), but I always have nutritious, filling snacks on hand just in case (at home, in the car, in my purse…). Let’s just put it this way… if hunger strikes in between meals and there’s not an appealing, filling and nutritious snack available (but there’s candy in the pantry), it’ going to be REALLY hard not to dive in. As parents we often pack snacks for our kids, but nothing for us. I’m guilty too! And let’s be honest, toddlers are not great at sharing, and if they do it’s most likely the squishy hand part of the banana. PASS.
Have a Drink (of water) and Think!
Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? We eat for all sorts of reasons including both physical and emotional hunger. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking or reaching for your kids trick or treat bag simply H.A.L.T! Get it? It’s fine to eat when hungry, in fact, you 100% SHOULD – it’s important to listen to your body first and foremost. But if you’re eating for purely emotional reasons, it sometimes helps to identify your emotion. Sure – I eat when I’m tired (hello late night popcorn) but sometimes it might be better to just hit the power off button and get some sleep. Identifying the feeling behind your eating habits is an important tool in determining WHY mindless snacking occurs. And once you figure out the “why” then you can tackle the “instead”. For example, if you’re always rushing home to cook supper and snacking on handfuls of nuts and crackers while you’re in prep mode, try to figure out why you are doing this and what to do instead. Oftentimes busy parents forget about eating from lunch to supper. And let’s face it, the transition from work to childcare pickup to home is stressful. Instead of mindless snacking during the at-home mayhem, try packing a small snack bag of nuts to consume on the commute home. You’ll have more energy and will be less likely to over consume on the same snack while preparing the family meal.
Forget Short-term & Focus on Long-term!
Important work takes time, which means building a healthy relationship with food will take time! Rome wasn’t built in a day folks! There will be days when your eating habits may feel like “the worst”, but there will also be fantastic days where you end up having all the ingredients to your favourite recipe. Part of having a healthy relationship with food means enjoying all food, not just food you think is good. Because “good versus bad” – forget it! Food isn’t black and white. Has your kid ever scribbled marker all over the wall (whoopsie)? Does this single bad behaviour make your kid a bad kid? Nope! Sh*t happens. And there’s no way I’m going to beat myself up for having a delicious oatmeal chocolate cookie with my coffee.
The trick to a healthy relationship with food is having treats regularly. Managing treats too tightly meals overindulging when given the opportunity or feeling like you need to have them in “sneak-ret” (which is a sneaky-secret). And how YOU pass along a healthy eating habits to your kids is by modelling healthy eating behaviour yourself. So… sit down with your kids, offer a plate of the yummy cookies linked above! Also include a small offering of fruit and a glass of milk to go along with the cookies. Enjoy together and keep the conversation away from the food! If your child asks for another cookie from the pre-portioned plate avoid saying “eat some fruit first” and instead say, “sure, but once they’re gone, they’re gone… and let’s make sure we share”. Encouraging sharing is important when it comes to treats and toddlers – especially in my household where toddler #1 wants to take allll the cookies from the plate leaving toddler #2 with no chance. My phrase – “one at a time just like Little Blue” (I’m a boy mom and Little Blue is a truck). Find what works for your family and set the mealtime rules!
This Halloween stop micro-managing your child’s short-term sugar intake, and instead focus on how to foster a healthy long-term relationship with food – for your kids AND yourself. That being said, my favourite way to get candy out of the house is to bake with it. I add all of the chocolate candy (M&Ms, Smarties, Reeses pieces) to a cookie recipe and bake WITH my kids. Cookies can be enjoyed together, baked and frozen for another day, or frozen as dough for freshly made cookies in a pinch!
Feel free to share your favourite tips for leftover Halloween candy in the comments below! And have a safe and Happy Halloween!!
Post written by: Lesley Langille, MS, RD, approved by Sarah Remmer, RD