How to Manage the Leftover Halloween Candy
Consider these sweet-stuff strategies before hitting the trick-or-treat trail this Halloween.
Only 20 percent of kids say they eat all their Halloween candy, according to a survey by KidsHealth. Whether that’s because they have the good sense to stop when they’ve had enough or because the rest of their haul mysteriously “disappears” after a few days, you’ll want to think about how to handle your kids’ loot before you’re swimming in it.
Wendy Bright-Fallon, an integrative health counselor in Red Bank, doesn’t advocate a harsh strategy: “That’s really the fun of it—going door to door collecting and then pouring out the stash and sorting through it when you get home. You want kids to have a pleasurable experience, but at the same time you want to instill the importance of boundaries—especially when it comes to sugar.” Instead, says Bright-Fallon, a Halloween night gorge can present an opportunity to talk about mindful eating. “After they’ve had their fill, ask: Do you feel tired? Do you have a headache? Does your tummy hurt? Are you cranky or moody? I call it the sugar hangover...ultimately, when we’re more mindful about our food, we tend to make different choices.”
Check out these keep-the-fun, mange-the-bellyache strategies for Halloween night and beyond.
Strategy 1: Limit it from the start.
Practice Bag Management
The easiest way to make sure your kids don’t go overboard is to stop them from collecting too much candy in the first place. Find smaller containers (think the size of a birthday goody bag) and skip the pillowcases, since whatever they’re carrying they’ll want to fill to the brim.
Reduce Your Trick-or-Treat Footprint
If your town hosts a celebration or store-to-store candy collection, go to that and skip the neighborhood romp. Or decide to trick-or-treat on your block only, instead of down every street in your ‘hood. Toddlers and preschoolers are usually perfectly happy to visit just a few houses; when you get home, let them help you answer the door and give candy out to others.
Create Candy Eating Rules
Halloween night, consider letting your kids eat a certain amount—say, five or so pieces—and then two pieces the next few nights for a week. “We allow our kids one or two pieces for dessert after dinner,” says Marisa Sandora of Ridgewood. “The stuff they really like gets eaten, and eventually we just throw the rest away.” School lunches are also a place to slowly dole out favorites.
Strategy 2: Let them go to town—They just might learn something.
Adopt the “Hey, it’s Just One Night” Attitude
Let your kids eat as much of their loot as they want when they get home from trick-or-treating. Yes, they might eat too much and get a tummy ache, or get wired and stay up too late. On the other hand, given free rein, they may eat less than you’d actually think. “We don’t try to donate or give away or trade in, on the belief that they’ve come by their haul honestly and a little overindulgence isn’t going to hurt them,” says David Russo of Glen Rock. “We just brush teeth a little longer and eat a bit more broccoli at dinner.”
After a Few Days: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
It’s possible that kids could eat their fill and then forget about the rest. “I let my kids eat what they want on that day,” says Andrea Alexander, MD, a pediatrician in Millburn and a mom of two. “Then I put the bags out of sight. Over the next few days, if they ask for it, I let them choose a few pieces. Over time, they lose interest and even forget about it. I think if you deny kids candy, they want it even more, and they never learn how to self-regulate.”
Strategy 3: Candy? What candy? (Make it disappear for good.)
Hand it Out
Save money and calories by returning the haul. “I almost never buy enough candy for trick-or-treaters,” says Rita Desnoyers-Garcia of South Orange. “So after the kids come back and we’ve run out, they’re so excited to have people come to the door that they give a lot of theirs away.”
Do Some Baking
Collect that chocolate and make M&M cookies, brownies or bars. Enjoy some, then give the rest away to a neighbor or bring the treats into work.
Give it All Back
Dentists, schools, hospitals, food pantries—there are lots of places where your kids can donate their extra candy. Or visit operationgratitude.com to learn how you can donate your haul to troops overseas!
Are there candies you should limit more than others?
Andrea Alexander, MD, a pediatrician in Millburn and a mom of two, points to sticky candies, such as gummy bears and taffy, sour candies and hard candies, like Jolly Ranchers, as cavity culprits. “Those are particularly damaging to a child’s teeth, more so than chocolate,” she says. “Kids should eat those sparingly and brush their teeth soon afterward.”
Tracy Spangler is a writer and mom of two girls in South Orange.