A strategy for more mindful eating.
As Halloween approaches, so many parents get anxious about candy and sugar - check out more on this in our other posts about handling Halloween candy and stressing less about sugar!
What I (Megan) have seen is that many parents are uncomfortable around sugar and candy because they don’t know how to handle it themselves. Perhaps you find yourself eating an entire bag of Reeses’ Pieces the week leading up to Halloween, or your kids’ candy loot feels like it has some sort of control over you. Sound familiar? You aren’t alone.
What I love about being in the Instagram community is learning from so many other intuitive eating dietitians, and one phrase I’ve seen floating around many of their accounts is that we are simply giving candy and sugar way too much credit. We’re giving it too much power. It’s so true. The more we obsess about it and restrict it, the more we crave it and the less we actually enjoy it while eating it. Do you notice that you eat candy very quickly so you “destroy the evidence”? If you think about it - what’s the point? Why eat it if we don’t actually enjoy it??
I challenge you to give yourself a little more credit and take the power away from that food. One way to do this is by sitting with candy (or any food) and really letting yourself actually enjoy it. Yes, eat it like you’re wine tasting. Really taste it. Give it time and aim for satisfaction from the eating experience.
Here are some tips for doing a simple mindful eating activity:
What you may notice is that a few bites hit the spot, or that you don’t actually like the candy once you’ve let yourself taste it. Maybe you need more than you thought. Perhaps you realize that you’d prefer another type of candy. Whatever you discover is OK.
I challenge you to try this again a few times as Halloween approaches, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat - and enjoy - some candy, however much that may be. You are worthy of eating food that tastes good, and that applies no matter what size you are or what you’ve eaten that day.
Do you need help with this? Please check out the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I have said it before and I’ll say it again - it will change your life!
How to include all kids on Halloween.
Do you have a kid with food allergies?
If you’d like to include all kids - including those with food allergies or those who have medical issues that prevent them from eating candy - in Halloween, then consider being part of the Teal Pumpkin Project! This important project encourages families to display a teal pumpkin and have non-food options available for kids who can’t have standard candies. You can even add your house to the map HERE so trick-or-treaters know where to find safe treats.
We know that it’s tricky maneuvering the food allergy world. In fact, both Judy and myself have food allergies, and I (Megan) grew up with a severe anaphylactic allergy in my immediate family. It’s hard.
If you have an allergic kiddo, try to focus on language about “keeping you safe” when discussing allergies. Phrases like, “All bodies react differently to foods. Some people can eat all foods, but some people can’t. Your body doesn’t like xyz, so in order to keep you safe we have to have other options.”
Make sure to have alternative treats for your kiddo to enjoy too. There are some great common allergen-free candies at Target, where you can also find a teal pumpkin most years (and it's reusable)!
You can also have alternative options to candy all together. Some ideas include:
If you're interested in joining the Teal Pumpkin Project, here's how to participate:
Do you Boo? Booing is surprising your neighbors and friends with a Halloween-themed gift and running away before you are spotted!
We were Booed earlier this week by some (unidentified) neighbors and are excited to carry on the tradition! Included in our Boo were instructions for continuing the Boo and a printable to hang on your front door that shows you’ve already been Booed from Tidy Mom - check out these printables!
For the families we are Booing, we included Target Dollar Spot gifts (socks, window clings, temporary tattoos, light up sticks, kid cups, bouncy balls, etc.), some candy and non-candy food (like name brand candy and some Made Good nut-free, dairy-free granola bars), something for the parents (Halloween-themed candles in our case), and instructions to continue Booing two additional people!
Our baskets are a little different since the families we are Boo-ing have different aged children, but you can make them generic if you don’t know whom you’re Booing! We love this Halloween tradition and the spirit it brings to our neighborhood!
Because kids grow up way too fast!
I don’t know what it is about fall and the holidays that makes me feel all crafty, except, I’m not the super artsy type. I can’t just come up with a craft on my own or make a homemade witch out of pipe cleaners and twine (serious props to the mamas who have this skill - please send me the materials and a tutorial.)
Thank goodness for Pinterest and the simple craft inspirations I find there. I don’t know who originally posted this, but it’s such a cute way to commemorate this holiday and have a record of your tots’ little feet. We did this a few years ago, and I can’t believe how small their feet were then!
This will be something I hope to hang up each year, even when I’m a grandma, to remind myself of a time when Halloween meant pure magic for my little kids. I know they won’t always be like this - eventually trick-or-treating will be uncool, and they may decide to not dress up for a few (or many) years. Hopefully they’ll inherit my Halloween obsession and will always think costumes are cool though!
Don’t get caught up in what you are or aren’t doing to celebrate with your kids this season. No need to pressure yourself to turn into "Perfect Mom" - it just doesn’t exist. Just carving a pumpkin together can be such an incredible memory for your whole family, and for many families it’s plenty of celebrating.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do a craft, do something like this - it just takes some non-toxic orange and white tempera paint, a sharpie, and a small canvas. Simply paint the canvas and let it dry. Then, put some white washable paint on your little ones’ feet and make the ghosts (this is the hard part - protect your floor!) and let it dry. Finish it off by using a sharpie for their eyes and words!
Don’t forget to date it on the back! One day, you’ll smile looking at those little ghost feet!
A great snack for kids and adults to enjoy.
It may be October, but it’s still hot in much of the world and smoothies are A-OK year round! We love featuring these each year because they’re tasty and appropriate for many allergy families too! (We aren’t dairy-free but know many of our followers are for various reasons!)
We found these fun glass Halloween milk bottles at Target again this year in the dollar spot! Worried about glass? Tuck the milk bottle in a sock before serving! It’s great to get toddlers used to handling glass (with assistance) so they can safely drink from it as they get older.
Each recipe makes about 2 cups of smoothie, but the glass bottles fit about 3/4 cup liquid each. Make them with your kids this month for a fun Halloween-themed drink that's tasty and satisfying!
Scary Berry Ingredients:
Sweet Pumpkin Spice Ingredients:
Green Goblin Ingredients:
For all recipes - throw all ingredients (liquid first) in a high powered blender like Vitamix. Blend until smooth and serve. Enjoy!
If you have signed up for our online toddler course course (specifically the step on Sugar, Candy and Desserts), you know that our approach to Halloween candy may be a bit different than you would expect for people who talk about nutrition for a living. Sure, candy is not a "health food"...but we eat for many reasons. Health isn't always one of them. And collecting, sorting and enjoying Halloween candy is one of the joys of childhood for many kids.
As with most things parenting-related, it's all about balance and seeing the big picture. Candy will likely be part of your child's normal food landscape. We can help them learn to manage it and get their fill so they don't feel compared to sneak or binge on it. Furthermore, we won't always have control of how or what our kids eat - it's important for us to continue to let them trust their bodies and hunger/fullness cues so they can rely on them as they gain more independence.
Oftentimes parents assume that when they completely restrict sugar or candy, their kids simply won't want it or won't gravitate toward it. Research suggests otherwise. More restrictive habits around food actually lead to children eating beyond their hunger cues. This makes sense - we tend to want what we perceive we cannot have. Read more about this in our blog post all about sugar.
Also remember, it's OK to eat something simply because you love it. When we are satisfied by the foods we eat, we are more likely to eat an amount that's appropriate from our body and move along with our day. Food has less emotional power over us when it's neutral, not "good" vs. "bad."
So, how do we handle this with Halloween or other holiday candy? The main premise is to let them have their fill when you decide to serve the candy and to not make a big deal out of it. Don't use it as a bribery tool or as a reward - you'll automatically elevate the candy and make it seem "special." Remember, we want what we perceive is "off-limits."
Here's how we recommend handling it:
1. Offer a filling dinner and plenty of water before trick-or-treating. If your kid is hangry during trick-or-treating they may want to eat on the run, which can be a safety hazard. They also might want to fill up on candy because they're so hungry. Before you head out, offer a whole grain pasta dish with diced turkey and veggies, Pumpkin Chili (vegetarian if desired), or pizza.
2. Decide if your kiddo is old enough for candy. Most babies aren't ready for many types of candy because it's difficult to chew, plus babies don't quite understand what they're missing. One- and two-year-olds may be very aware that they're receiving candy and may want to try it, especially if they have older siblings or friends. As the parent, it's your choice whether or not to start exploring candy with your young toddler. (In our home we allow our kids to try Halloween candy once they're one year of age, but this is a decision you'll have to make.) If your child is going Trick-or-Treating, it may be difficult for them to understand why they can't eat the candy.
3. Once you get back home, sort it! Remove any choking hazards or candies that may be difficult to chew like taffy, gum, or hard candy for kids under 4. (Use this opportunity to put together a Parent Stash of your favorites! You know, for safety and all...)
4. Allow your child to sort, explore and eat as much candy as they wants when you get home. Try not to comment on how much they are eating or pressure them to stop. Also, avoid overexcitement about candy - remember, we want our kids to see all food as food, not "something special." Let them feel their own fullness and decide when to stop. If you haven't been doing this with your kiddos, they may test you and overeat - which may lead to a stomachache. Try not to take the "see, I told you so" route with them; rather, gently discuss what happened and explain that sometimes if we eat more than our belly is hungry for, it hurts. If you start this approach young, you will likely be very surprised by how little your little actually eats! You might also notice that they're more interested in collecting and sorting the candy than actually eating it.
5. You provide, child decides. Decide how often you want to serve Halloween candy again for the next few weeks. Maybe you have some with each dinner or put some in their school or daycare lunch for a few days.
When you do serve it, let your child decide how much to eat and avoid tying it to behaviors ("You must finish your vegetables to get candy" or "No candy if you don't clean up your toys"). Rather, serve it with or after meals without making a fuss about it. You can do it once, five times, with every meal, or never again - this is up to you. If you remain neutral about it, oftentimes children lose interest.
Important caveat: we still recommend that you as the parent decide when it's served. If your child has constant access to candy, they might not have an appetite for other foods. Remember, you provide food of your choice at regular meals - they decide how much to eat.
6. Keep it out of sight until you decide to serve it again. A child who sees the candy in plain view will ask for it often. Put it out of sight, and if your child asks to have some when you weren't planning to serve it, explain that "We aren't having candy right now - let's have some with dinner. Would you like applesauce or crackers with your cheese for snack?"
7. Decide how you want to phase it out. In our family, after a week or two my kids forget about the candy altogether and I donate it. Interestingly, they don't Some families keep it longer or put it in the freezer. We don't recommend having kids use it as payment (like the "switch witch") because that makes the candy seem special. Rather, phase it out how it seems appropriate for your family or continue to enjoy it until it's gone.
Need more help with mealtime? Check out our video-based online course, which has helped thousands of parents raise happy, confident eaters!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!