Halloween is a FUN holiday meant to be enjoyed.
Actually, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice intuitive eating. Restricting, rationing, hiding your child’s candy, and communicating these restrictions to your child can create a sense of shame and guilt when consuming these foods. A kiddo who is never exposed to any fun food will have a tough time eating them without shame and often this shame around food is carried into adulthood. Providing your child with the support and structure to understand their own hunger/fullness/satisfaction signals without restriction can help them develop a positive relationship with food and Halloween is the perfect holiday to make this happen. But how do we accomplish this?
If you are a parent or caregiver, here are some suggestions as to how you can help.
Keep food – and Halloween candy – neutral
Controlling your child’s intake can lead to secretive eating, overeating, sense of urgency with intake and can create black and white thinking around these certain treats as being “bad” or needing to be controlled or managed. The more you, as the parent, make a big deal of it, the more the child is going to feel that there is something wrong or shameful about it. And shame around food never helps a child become a healthy eater! By remaining neutral, the children will figure out what they want to eat and how frequently they want to consume it. They may decide to count every piece of candy they’ve made out within their haul and be more excited about the sheer abundance of their loot and less about the actual candy itself. They may want to trade with their friends/siblings or decide to donate it. If you don’t make a big deal over it, they are less likely to do the same.
Restricting a child’s intake can often lead to overeating and in the long run, an unhealthy relationship with food. Being excited about sweets is a normal and totally healthy response. Cultivating fear or worry or shame around the experience is not.
You are going to eat candy on Halloween, and that is okay! Providing your child (and yourself) with permission and freedom to enjoy Halloween candy will take away the “forbidden” factor, making the entire experience more fun and relaxed for everybody. When it comes to intuitive eating, we know that the more “no’s” you attach to foods, the more enticing they become and the more apt we are to overindulge. By removing that label and allowing you and your children to enjoy these treats, the less likely the entire bag will disappear before the holiday week is over. And if it does, that’s okay too! Make peace with it and move on.
Help them choose the Halloween candy they truly enjoy
What is your all-time favorite candy? That’s the one. Choose it, pop it in your mouth and savor every last delicious flavor that you taste in your mouth. Think about the candy and hone in on the different flavors spreading across your taste buds. Focus on what it is that makes you enjoy this particular candy so much. It’s your favorite candy and there is no shame in enjoying it. As a parent, you may have your own special memories of that candy or of the holiday itself. Talk about this with your kids and help them to savor the same way you are.
Help them enjoy options as they desire
Keep Halloween candy in an open, easily accessible space. We tend to most want the foods that we restrict ourselves from, but allowing ourselves that treat as desired helps to naturally take in what we need, rather than getting as much as possible before it disappears. Keeping candy in the cabinet above the fridge or setting a limit per night holds the potential to transform this candy from regular food in the home into a treat that can only be had on select occasions. This could result in your kids eating more candy in one sitting than the body really wants because they are afraid that this may be their only chance to have it. As soon as they feel like they cannot get the pumpkin-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cup whenever they want it, they will likely want it ten times more.
No need to wait until Halloween to start practicing. Intuitive Eating skills can be talked about and explored anytime food is involved. Pick a meal that you are all together and start the intuitive eating conversation.
Chat about what hunger and signs of fullness feel like.
Try asking everyone how their stomach is feeling before and after their meals. Taking the time to focus on fullness will allow everyone to enjoy the food that they love without getting overstuffed. This will help them regulate how much and how often they reach for the Halloween candy. Help them to connect to the food that they are eating!
When serving dinner, encourage family-style dining.
Put all foods out on the table and allow everyone to serve him or herself. This freedom gives everyone the chance to experiment and practice being attentive to their individual fullness throughout the meal. Luckily, this is something that kids are inherently pros at executing.
Let this Halloween be a guilt and stress-free time for you and your family. Teaching your kids to recognize their body’s natural signals, giving them permission to honor those signals, and adopting an “all foods fit” philosophy will allow not only the holidays but also everyday meals and snacks to be more enjoyable for everybody and will nurture a healthy relationship between your family and food. Take the time to focus on preparing costumes and optimizing your spooky Halloween display for trick or treaters and less time figuring out the best hiding spot for the candy bags. Those moments count so much more than how much candy is on the counter.
Happy Halloween from the team here at NourishRX! We wish you a safe and delicious holiday.