It’s that time of year again (where did this year go!?). We’re getting a lot of questions about Halloween and how to manage a sugar-crazed toddler running around! Don’t worry, Stephanie Middleberg, licensed MS, RD CDN, and one of the experts on our Is This Normal Expert Panel, is here to help manage Halloween candy overload!
Stephanie breaks down her pre and post-Halloween plan, a few easy recipes she has up her sleeve and all the best tips to make this holiday as perfect as a Reeses’ peanut butter cup (we all know we’re sneaking a couple this holiday).
Q: How do I manage food in lead up to trick or treating? What do you recommend for dinner?
A: Your kids are going to be excited, so it’s always a good idea to go with a classic family recipe that your children will be willing to eat & enjoy. I look for a dinner that’s high in protein and high in fats. You want to make sure you are also stabilizing their blood sugar, so they aren’t CRAVING all of these sugary treats. We’ll usually go with spaghetti and meatballs or roasted salmon with a simple side (my kids love this). Just be sure to make a meal that the kids will stop to eat amidst the excitement of the evening.
Q: My kid is so excited! What’s the best balance to strike so they have fun and I’m not too worried about sugar intake?
A: This is a hard balance to master, but it is really all about what feels right for your family! In lead up to trick or treating, it’s important to have a conversation with your kids beforehand, laying out your expectations and the ground rules for the holiday. Also, just remember that sugar is going to happen! This is one of the most fun days of the year and at the end of the day, remember this is just ONE day! Being prepared definitely helps to make this day less stressful.
In my house, after trick or treating we dump everything on the floor. The first thing we do is get rid of the candy that’s unwrapped or could be choking hazards. From there, we put all of the candy into separate piles, chocolate, gummies, lollipops, etc. This gives us as parents a good way to gauge how much candy they managed to receive and how we are going to distribute over the next couple of days and weeks. The night of, we personally don’t limit their candy intake – it’s in the days that follow that we set up some rules to track the sugar quantities!
PS: If your child has a food allergy like my son, check out the Teal Pumpkin Project – we’ll be using a teal pumpkin in our house this Thursday.
Q: OK, night of complete. What do we do with all the extra candy in the house the next day? (Advice for the parents and the kiddos please!)
A: As a family, we make a decision together and set expectations for how much candy we’ll plan for over the next few days. We’ve found that a couple pieces every day for the next couple of days with or after dinner works best for our family. Just remember, children like routines, so set a plan that your kids can track with you.
A good hack for us parents to avoid the sugar cravings too? Out of sight, out of mind. We’ll put the candy away so everyone in the household is less focused on it!
After the first three days or so, the excitement around Halloween candy is less present and there’s an opportunity to talk to the kids about giving it away. Maybe mommy or daddy is taking it to work or we’re giving it to the doorman or mailman. Kids really do love to give things away and be generous, so try talking to your kids about who else would enjoy some candy!
Q: What are the best candy alternatives you’d recommend? Any recipes you’d suggest to hit the sweet tooth without too much sugar?
A: It’s difficult to find treats that your mini will enjoy as much as the treats that have extensive amounts of sugar in them, but here are a couple of my family’s favorite treats! P.S. they’re also allergy-free 😉
- Partake cookies: These cookies are not only free of the top 8 allergens, but I find myself snacking on them as well!
- Energy Bites: These are super easy to make at home. I usually add some chocolate chips, dried fruits, put them in the fridge and give them to my kids when they want a quick sugar kick. During this time, my pumpkin treats are super popular and a lot less sugar than your usual piece of candy. I get my kids to help me make these so they feel rewarded when they snack on them!
- Sunbutter cups: these can totally replace peanut butter cups! Sunbutter is a peanut butter alternative and it doesn’t have as much sugar in them as Reese’s peanut butter cup.
- Chocolate or Yogurt covered bananas: I take bananas, dip them in chocolate or yogurt and put small chocolate chips to make out ghost eyes! My kids love this and they’re easy to pop in the freezer.
- Pumpkin Muffins or Chocolate Zucchini Muffins: These are super easy to make. I usually look online for a recipe that’s simple and low in sugar.
- Lastly, I always make sure I have some type of Dark Chocolate Bark around the house. It’s so easy to melt and place on fruits to help kick sugar cravings to the curb!