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Note from Carolyn:  Halloween often sets the stage for over-indulging until January.  Our herbal detox,
so very popular here at Meridian, is the perfect way to cleanse your system of holiday treats to look and feel your best, both now and for the holidays ahead. We’ve got a  one-day Halloween sale going for today only!  $10 off + 1 week supply free to celebrate our new website and video … Click HERE and take a look!  Use coupon code “Halloween10” when you order.

Happy Halloween! Bring on the fun, the costumes …. And the candy? Now that’s the REAL trick in “trick or treat”. For health-conscious parents, Halloween and managing all that sugar in a happy way can be a spooky mystery.

How much candy is acceptable for you and your little ones is a personal decision. Articles and information abound on the negative effects of sugar on both children and adults, in terms of both health and behavior. The spiritual and personal-discipline aspects of managing sugar are important to consider as well, for candy-loving kids of all ages.

Do you set limits? Do you be the “monster” parent and take control, or do you let kids decide how much candy and sugar to eat and become uncontrollable monsters themselves? Do you just jump into the fray and eat more than the kids themselves do, allowing the sugar devil himself take over your own life (and turn you into a mess as it does for me) until it’s gone?

For many of us, “all of the above” is the answer. My personal vote goes for setting the limit for a one night free-for-all, then to make it vanish ASAP (for the kids and yourself) with one or more of the five suggestions below.

Without some strategies and early decisions, the biggest Halloween trick (that backfires on all of us) becomes “just one night” turning into “oh, who cares it’s the holidays!” long before Thanksgiving and Christmas. It occurs to me that the marketing strategies in our major stores that have Halloween candy set up next to early Christmas home décor subtly penetrates our subconscious to just go ahead and indulge as a “holiday celebration” mentality. Without some decisions, Halloween candy blurs into three months of candy-candy-candy. It pads their pocketbooks and our hips as their financial success becomes our demise. (See Jane Birch’s article “Discovering The Word of Wisdom: The Evils and Designs of Conspiring Men)

There isn’t just one right answer. Instead, it’s up to wise parents to use your best judgment and the Spirt as a guide based on your child’s (and your) personality and eating habits. Kids and adults who generally eat just a couple of pieces and save the rest might be trusted to decide how much to eat. But if your child (or you) tend to overdo it, it’s time for some conscious decisions ahead of time. If it’s too late for Halloween tonight, then you can ease into it tomorrow and be prepared for next year with the information below.

Here are some more tips for handling the Halloween treats:

Before kids go trick-or-treating, try to serve a healthy meal so they’re not hungry when the candy starts coming in. Our easy vegetarian chili recipe provided below is always a hit. A second serving after a return from trick-or-treating and eating candy is often welcomed too.

Know how much candy your child has collected and don’t store it in his or her bedroom. Having it so handy can be an irresistible temptation for many kids .. and adults like myself who can spend an inordinate amount of time putting away laundry and straightening up children’s bedrooms in the days after Halloween while nibbling away on the goodies. (see my Meridian article from 2014 “My Halloween Candy Monster”)

From kidshealth.org and Dr. Steven Dowshen:

Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Candy and snacks shouldn’t get in the way of kids eating healthy meals.

If a child is overweight — or you’d just like to reduce the Halloween stash — consider buying back some or all of the remaining Halloween candy. (See my “Bank and Store” game below.) This acknowledges the candy belongs to the child and provides a treat in the form of a little spending money.

Be a role model by eating Halloween candy in moderation yourself. To help avoid temptation, buy your candy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.

Encourage your kids to be mindful of the amount of candy and snacks eaten — and to stop before they feel full or sick. You also can offer some alternatives to candy to the trick-or-treaters who come to your door. Here are some treats you might give out:

  • non-food treats, like stickers, toys, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, like tiny decks of cards (party-supply stores can be great sources for these)
  • snacks such as small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum, trail mix, small boxes of raisins, and popcorn
  • sugar-free candy
  • small boxes of cereal or pretzels

Steer clear of any snacks or toys — like small plastic objects — that could pose choking hazards to very young children.

And remember that Halloween, like other holidays, is a single day on the calendar. If your family eats sensibly during the rest of the year, it will have a more lasting impact than a few days of overindulgence.

Hopefully within a day or two, the candy is gone. For our family it was not. We had five children who all loved to trick or treat. We added to that fact the 1) generous neighborhood we lived in, 2) the grand competition between siblings and friends of “who can collect the most?” topped off with 3) their math homework to collect it for upcoming counting, categorizing, graphing and other math projects that involved as much wrapped candy as possible. In looking back, we could have limited how much they collected, but we were never the kind of parents who squashed ambition and enthusiasm.

Our children remember well the mother of one special friend coming to get him after their evening of success and fun. She was appalled by the mountain of candy her 8 year old son had collected. At that very moment, on Halloween night, she insisted that he choose 3-4 pieces, then leave the rest with us. It was very much a downer for a fantastically fun night. Now they are all grown up. When we look back on our treasured Halloween memories, they thank me repeatedly for not being that mother. And that feels good. Our kids survived too much candy and so did I. In looking back, however, I wish I’d done some of the following as healthier alternatives:

  1. Share Treats With Others
    You can donate to the fire department, the police department or the local food bank. That’s a great experience and a good message to provide our children. If the organization doesn’t want it, they will have sources to pass it on, but be friendly while you give it to them. Positive interaction with adult authority is important and good.
  2. Buy It Back – Play Bank and Store!
    Have fun developing math skills and play store. Go to the bank and get rolls of pennies, quarters, dimes, one dollar bills and five dollar bills. Put a fair market price on dum-dums and small pieces of gum (say a penny or a nickel), with escalating prices on the bigger sizes of candy bars and treats. Have a parent, competent older child or adult being the banker who can exchange pennies into larger coins, and coins into dollar bills. Give everyone a container to collect their money. Put the discarded candy into a container. Take turns going around the circle exchanging candy for cash until the candy is gone. You may consider doing this as a fun one-on-one with young children who may struggle with siblings having candy/money than they do.
  3. Introduce The Candy Fairy
    The Candy Fairy is a popular alternative to avoid candy overload. Kids leave the sweets out at night and the Candy Fairy swaps them out for a toy or small gift. “It creates a sense of magic and creativity. I think it’s really positive and it’s a good way to divvy up the extra candy so they don’t feel like they’re losing out on anything.”

    In the end, with either the Bank and Store Game or the Candy Fairy, you, as the adult have the candy and can control it – including just plain throwing it away. It is perfectly acceptable to think of it as a disposal paper partyware, like fun paper tablecloths and matching paper plates and cups for a party. The celebration atmosphere and fun that it brings has served its purpose in the event itself. Say “Thanks and Goodbye!” Then take it to the trash, like used paper cups, napkins and plates.

    You may want to save it, however, (especially if you’re not personally tempted by it) and do the following:

  4. Get Crafty!
    The holidays are just around the corner! You can make a holiday wreaths with wrapped candy, or fill plastic baubles with candy, wrapped or unwrapped. Our family greatly enjoyed making gingerbread houses in December, and saving Halloween candy for that (instead of eating non-stop) was an acceptable alternative for our family.
  5. Reverse Trick-or-Treat
    Offer your kids another way to get involved with their community while also extending the excitement of the holiday. Let the kids wear their costumes and take extra candy to a local senior center for an evening of reverse trick-or-treating. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD, founder of author of “Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate”, does this with her own family on Halloween as a way to offer the “give me, give me, give me” aspects of the holiday a more uplifting spin. “My kids look forward to it every year and it makes the seniors very happy,” she says.

Well, it’s a holiday that’s meant to be FUN! Start the evening with our family’s favorite crockpot vegetarian chili. Both before trick or treating, and after when something warm and nourishing tastes so good after candy, will be a very welcome treat.

Carolyn’s Famous EZ Vegetarian Chili

(We’ve taken this more times than we can count to chili cook-offs and trunk or treat parties. It’s so colorful and delicious that we always return home with an empty pot – and people asking for the recipe.

2 cans of kidney beans, drained
3 cans of stewed tomatoes
1 can of kernal corn, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 package of Chili seasoning mix (We like ours mild and don’t use the full pkg.)

Mix all ingredients in a crockpot and set on LO for at least 4 hours.

Happy Halloween! Go make some memories worth remembering!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life/. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eleven. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson Tennessee, close to Memphis where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox and Carolyn serves in the Primary Presidency.