"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Trick or Treat: Limiting Candy Consumption

Halloween can be so much fun for kids, but dealing with the aftermath can be a headache.  Kecia wants to know how you handle the Halloween sugar overload?

I would love advice and suggestions regarding Halloween candy. My son is three years old and we love the idea of dressing up and trick-or-treating. I’m actually fine with my son having a piece of candy (or two). I don’t want a bucket full of candy sitting around our house for weeks. I don’t want him eating a piece (or two) of candy day after day. Last year, I explained that when Halloween is over his candy goes away. It worked well, but he was only 2 ½. What do you do? Is there actually a place that we can bring his candy (college campus, meals-on-wheels, etc.)? Please share your suggestions.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wow, I know this approach will make a lot of people grimace, but I use my mom's tried and true method (developed after my sister hoarded her Halloween candy until Easter the year she was four). Here's the deal: let your kids eat as much Halloween candy as they want for three days. Anything left after three days goes in the trash. The only limitation I have is that we don't eat candy before breakfast.

Now, I know this can encourage binging on the candy, but it's worked fine with my son and daughter so far. After eating too much candy and not enough food one day when he was four, my son didn't feel so good. We talked about how his body needed "good" food in order to feel good. I think that was a well-learned lesson. Plus there's no whining for candy, pleading for candy, waiting for candy to be doled out, etc. It's there and then it's gone.

I think one thing that helps me take this indulgent approach is that I don't ordinarily have any candy or junk food around the house. So if my kids eat a lot of candy at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, it's not like that has a big impact on their overall health.

Anyway, my feelings won't be hurt if no one else wants to try this, but it's worked really well for our family.

We forgot to mention: here are some suggestions from last year!

I agree with your approach Janice! as I've mentioned before I've been reading the book 'Take the Fight out of Food' and the author would suggest exactly that approach (his position is that, if you restrict candy too much, your children will sneak it and develop any one of a range of issues around food, from over-eating to under-eating). allowing the kids to eat as much as they want usually ends after a day or two and, to be honest, *I* eat far more of the halloween candy than they do! (Afterwards, it doesn't go into the trash, but it's usually forgotten and eventually finished off by the adults.) I like his concept that nearly every child will eat what they need if offered good choices and left to their own devices.

I'd be happy to be a drop-off site... yum. hehe.

We let our daughter eat as much as she wants( within reason.. she does not gorge!) for 1 day, then after 1 day,she puts the bucket at the foot of her bed and the halloween fairy takes the bucket of candy away while she sleeps and leaves a small toy.
This is per Dr. Pike's suggestion and it's great! She much rather have a little toy than candy..

We've found that little kids don't hold up for a whole lot of trick-or-treating so they don't get that much candy to begin with. We plan to have a party with neighbors after about 30 minutes of trick-or-treating so I don't think we'll have that much anyway.

I don't think Clara will keep track of what we do come home with (though I could be wrong) so it won't be hard to pick a few pieces out after she goes to bed and "thin" our the loot. And of course, they'll go right into the trash and I won't eat any. No. Uh-uh. No candy for me! ;)

My kids are 4 and 7 and they have become highly skeptical of the Sugar Ghost (similar to Jennifer's Halloween Fairy). It worked for awhile, but the bloom is off the (candy) apple now. So this year we're going to try Janice's 3-day approach.

I know someone who let her son "trade in" his halloween candy for small little prizes she purchased in advance--things like matchbox cars, etc. Different small toys were worth different amounts of candy. Some might find this approach to be a bit materialistic, but it's another way to get them to part with the sugar!

I don't know if this would work with younger children, but it still works with my 9-year-old. I buy the candy from him. We decide on the prices (began with 5 cents for little candies and 10 cents for bigger candies, but raised it last year to 10 and 20 respectively) and then he goes through his candy and decides which ones he wants to sell me and which ones he wants to keep, to eat one a day. I usually end up parting with some cash, as he values money quite a bit, and then I take the candy to work or somesuch to poison someone else with all the sugar! I believe I started doing this when he was 5, and it was really valuable for learning to count by 5's and 10's and learning how cents fit into a dollar. He enjoys having some extra money to spend on Pokemon cards, and I enjoy getting as much candy as I can away from him!

My daughter, who is now 8, used to crash after we let her eat as much candy as she wanted to after trick-er-treat. So we started on variation on buying her candy.

I make cards of events she likes to do. Then she buys them from us. So a trip to the puppet show is 10 pieces of candy, and going swimming is 4 pieces. Usually the total on the cards is about equal to the amount of candy, so she has to decide which things she wants to do and what candy she wants to keep. She keeps the activity cards and cashes them in during the year.

I think it is a fun math game about value and not getting all you want. We started this when she was 5 and she looks forward to it each year.

My brother and sister-in-law don't let the kids eat any candy, but they do let them trick or treat. After halloween the kids trade their candy for a toy. I thought I'd try a variation, let my 2-1/2 year old keep a very small amount (3-4 pieces to eat over several days?) and then trade the rest for a trip to the toy store down on Hawthorne. I'd be curious to see what other parents thought of that idea.

What usually happens at our house is we let the boys eat a nice amount of candy on Halloween (5-6 pieces, maybe). They are off the wall, but hey, they usually are anyway. The following day, they get maybe 1-2 pieces. Then the candy goes wa-a-ay on top of the fridge where the boys can't see it. They might ask for it in the next day or two, which yields some diversionary tactics on my part ("Is your room cleaned yet?" "Hey, weren't we going to the playground?" etc.) If they remember after the diversion, then, hey, suddenly it's dinner time (or whatever), and if they're good, they get one piece after pjs but before tooth brush time. Usually they don't remember. My oldest son is 5, and since he's been trick-or-treating (about 3 yrs), I've ended up throwing out the leftover candies on Easter. (Of course, my husband and I have already picked out everything we liked...normally by day 3!).

Sorry if this comes out a little harsh here. I've got little ones who went to about 3 neighbors in a cute costume last year so didn't get a haul. And I am not so keen on Halloween in general. But I don't get the quandry here. If you don't want the kids eating all the candy, don't let them get all the candy. Aren't there alternatives to trick-or-treating these days?

We have a great "candy buy back" program at my dental practice for the whole community. For every pound of candy the kids bring in, they receive $1.00. It's great incentive for the kids and it keeps them sugar free and hence cavity free. My office # is 503-762-2525.

We are vegan, so while I take my older kids (ages 6 and 8 1/2) around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat, most of the stuff is candy they can't eat. I figure they should get to have something, so I buy vegan candy and treats ahead of time and do a trade with them, then if we get back from trick-or-treating early enough, I take all the candy they can't have and pass it out to the rest of the kids who come to our house. We let the kids have a couple of pieces on Halloween, then one piece each night for dessert until it's gone. Since I am managing how much and what they get because of the trade, it works out so they get a treat but the candy doesn't drag on for weeks.

Has anyone ever tried giving out a non-candy treat, like stickers or little toys or prizes? I've thought about this in the past because there are diabetics in my family. And now that there's more information out there regarding the behavioral effects of artificial colors and preservatives, I've been thinking about it again. Any suggestions?

Has anyone ever tried giving out a non-candy treat, like stickers or little toys or prizes? I've thought about this in the past because there are diabetics in my family. And now that there's more information out there regarding the behavioral effects of artificial colors and preservatives, I've been thinking about it again. Any suggestions?

Has anyone ever tried giving out a non-candy treat, like stickers or little toys or prizes? I've thought about this in the past because there are diabetics in my family. And now that there's more information out there regarding the behavioral effects of artificial colors and preservatives, I've been thinking about it again. Any suggestions?

I thought about that, giving out stickers or pencils... Target has some cute Halloween pencils in the $1 section right now. Maybe one of those plus a fruit-juice sweetened lollipop (awesome ones at Food Fight here in town: http://store.foodfightgrocery.com/orlotub.html) would be a good alternative to other "scarier" candy. Do you think they kids would go for it?

To answer the question why take them around to get a lot of candy if you don't want them to eat it ... well I think it is fun for the kids to go around to a lot of houses in the neighborhood ... and there is the community aspect too. We know a lot of our neighbors, and they enjoy seeing the kids' costumes. It is a social event, and I think a community builder.

Halloween-themed pencils sound like a great idea! I hadn't even thought of themed stuff - I think that would really work. Thanks!

Halloween-themed pencils sound like a great idea! I hadn't even thought of themed stuff - I think that would really work. Thanks!

While I agree that the kids love trick-or-treating and it's fun to get out and see the neighbors, I'm not a huge fan of the candy for the kids at all (nor the scary elements that are pretty unavoidable). I have a 4.5 year old and a 3 year old and our group of friends have gotten together for a costume party for the past couple of years. So far the kids haven't asked to trick or treat, but we'll see how long we can keep them oblivious to the treats they are missig out on!

For years now we have gotten together with neighbors and eaten a reasonably healthy dinner (veggie chili or something like that) before trick or treating. The kids then go out but mine at almost 6 and almost 2 never last really long. They do not come home with a ton - in fact they come home from some birthday parties with more.

I understand not wanting to dole it out over time but that is what we end up doing. I love sweets and know that to deny my kids will make them want them more. A good friend in college was denied sweets and junk food and had a serious eating disorder. Moderation is the key.

So far our kids are the ones that will eat three bites of a cookie and want to save it for later. Playing is more fun. Meanwhile, their friends who live with parents more strict will gorge if given the chance.

My oldest has a bucket that we store candy in (she gets it at parties, Easter, Halloween, etc.) and she can see that it always seems full. She has gotten to the point where on her own she will go through and throw out stuff that she does not like. She says it is bad to have this much bad food around. I feel really good about how much positive control she has taken over the situation.

With that said, I am not buying candy to hand out this year. It is too tempting for me to have it in the house - plus I will raid the bags after they go to sleep. Target has 15 glow in the dark braclets for $1. I bought enough for the older kid's class party and to hand out. It is something that kids of all ages can have fun with - imagine a 12 year old getting a sticker. You might wake up to soap on the windows.

I'm a sugar addict from a sugarless childhood, and I use Halloween and birthday parties as opportunities for my daughters to develop healthy attitudes about sweets. We talk about how the different candies might make us feel, and my 5 yr old can tell the artificial stuff from the decent stuff pretty much by the wrappers. She willingly tosses the worst stuff (or won't even pick it up from party pinatas) and is pretty sensible about eating the rest in moderation, or trading it for even better quality stuff from home. I'm really proud to see her making the right choices on her own, and hope her sister will follow suit.

We don't give out candy, and no one has ever complained, except one mom who didn't want her 2 year old to have balloons (Dum-dums being clearly a better option...). Balloons have been very popular, mechanical pencils for the older kids, bouncy balls are good too.

A few weeks ago I noticed that Costco was selling a big package of individual tiny tubs of play-doh. There were like 50 of them for $10. I figure any that don't get given out for Halloween will get used at parties, in restaurants, etc.

I've been there with having little kids who are uninterested in the candy, and that's great while it lasts. But now that mine are older, it's WAY different. They get a thrill out of being out there and bringing in a big haul. And as we never, ever buy candy at any other time of year, I'm ok with the yearly binge. To an extent!

And while I appreciate the efforts of those who want to give out non-candy items, I can assure you that my kids and all their friends consider you a bunch of horrible party-poopers. (Although no one has ever handed them anything as good as a mechanical pencils or glow bracelets.) The usual alternatives in our neighborhood are stickers ("for babies") tiny stuffed animals ("WHY?") and pencils ("Maybe they can't afford candy?")

when I was a kid there was a dentist in our neighborhood who gave out toothbrushes. I remember thinking that was all right.

I have so many emotional issues around food, and I am so hopeful that I will not pass then along to my daughter. I am not using food for reward or punishment. If we are going out for ice cream and she misbehaves, she gets a time out, then we go for ice cream. She doesn't lose out on food for "being naughty." On the other side, I don't want her to have to earn her candy. I most definitely don't want to get into power struggles around food. Not much of an issue now while she is 2, but I am trying to set the stage for the future. I never had any issues around Halloween except for my brothers stealing my candy, but I never got cavities, and I was not off the wall. However, I was a pretty plump child, and I had no food limits. It's a real fine line, trying to not to make food about control. My daughter seems to be naturally slim, so it might not be an issue for her. I just so much don't want her to end up using food for reassurance and "company" like I have always done. Boy, I could start a whole new thread about the issues of emotions and food!

Oh fine, I'll just pass out candy cigarettes from Archie McPhee and be the coolest house on the block. Joking! Seriously zinemama, your kids might be a good focus group here - do you think they'd be enthusiastic about any of this stuff? * Temporary tattoos* Fancy erasers/Pencil toppers/ Crayons/ Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)/* Superballs/Glow-sticks/* Origami paper & instructions/* Bubbles.

Someone also suggested small packs of raisins or nuts, although you couldn't give those to really little kids. I'd like to just give one thing, but it seems like a lot of this stuff might be a choking/pvc hazard.
I remember when I was a kid one of our neighbors gave out apples. I was certain that it was filled with poison or razor blades (do kids still tell each other that?) and threw it behind a bush. I'm still ashamed of myself when I think of it.

I guess I am lucky because my daughter never seems that excited about the candy. She just likes going out in a costume and getting all the "she's so cute" comments. So when we get back home, she has a few pieces of candy, and I take the rest of it to work the next day and leave it in a bowl in the breakroom. It is gone by the end of the day, I don't consume all of it, and all of the kidless people at my work are ecstatic to have candy to munch throughout the day. Everyone wins!

Catmom, they would LOVE temporary tattoos. (Spiders, lizards, dragons and frogs preferred). Glowsticks would be well-received, as would coins. Superballs we've got tons of and don't need anymore broken windows...Pencils and erasers are not popular. I imagine some kids would get excited about origami paper and bubbles.

But frankly, for my little barbarians, it really is all about the candy.

I have to say I am not fond of the candy. I don't like when my husband goes out to buy bags of candy to give out, especially since we are usually out all night and end up with unopened bags of candy at the end of it all.

We have not encountered too many playdoh or sticker or eraser houses, so I don't know whether that would go over well with our girls. Gaging from the girls' hyper-interest in always getting stickers at New Seasons or Trader Joe's, I guess the stickers would be a big hit for our family.

Growing up, both my husband and I (all our parents being immigrants from the Philippines), were told that we needed to set aside a pile of candy for our relatives in the Philippines. Of course, we would find our parents would never send it, but the exercise made us divide our goods and share.

I never know what to do with the excess. Litter them in offices? The mini-Hersey candy I save to use for smores during the next camp season or when we make fires in the pit outside.

We always have too much candy both before and after the Halloween storm. Even if I let the girls eat as much as they can, we'll still have some left over. I'm willing to take more suggestions on how to handle the excess candy.

We enjoy trick or treating. As another commenter said, it gets us out in the neighborhood. We don't stay out too long, but it's fun for us to see other kids all decked out.


My husband is the sugar gremlin. I don't worry too much about our boys consuming too much sugar, rather it's my husband. The boys typically dig into the candy stash the night of, but pretty much forget about the candy after that. Moderation is our mantra in parenting, and I'm a big believer that if we withhold sugar completely, the boys will have some sort of complex about it in the future.

When I was a kid, we got those little collection boxes for pennies for UNICEF to carry around with us during trick-or-treating and then bring into school to donate. Does anyone still do that?

We've done UNICEF boxes for a couple years now and it was fun for the kids although it seemed to take a few of the neighbors by surprise. Also, my kids (age 2 and 4) go to daycare near my work so I have been able to bring them to my office on Halloween in costume to trick-or-treat for UNICEF from my coworkers.

As an adoptive parent I refuse to even look at one of the UNICEF boxes. They are truly anti-adoption. They are currently involved in stopping international adoption from various countries. There plan for the children - well they have none.

There are plenty of other wonderful organizations to raise money for.

We let our four kids eat as much of their Halloween candy as they want, unitl it's gone...this plan eliminates any parent-child struggles and eliminates a desire to hoard, sneak, etc. and it doesn't give sugar any power...it's just one time a year, and we don't believe that will cause any lifetime habits or cavities. It actually has helped them develop a sense of how much is too much, they have amazing self-regulation skills around sugar and other things. Children can be trusted.

My kids have a sweet tooth that they come by honestly! I have a year-round method for dealing with sweets that works no matter the season. Desserts are for after dinner. They can pick one or two small things from their bucket each night. This goes for Easter, birthday parties, etc. They are excited by their treasure, and I don't want to be in the role of taking it away, either by tricking them, trading with them, coaxing, etc. In my mind, it shouldn't have that much importance. I find that parental sampling thins the loot at a pace they don't notice, and when we parents are being good and healthy, I don't have qualms about putting a few pieces into the trash each night. Better there than on my body!

When they are really excited Halloween night, I let them eat more because, hey, it is what the holiday is for. But I don't like to let them gorge on the candy after that because it wrecks their mood sets a bad precendent, and makes it even harder to get healthy food in. All in all, it messes with our fragile family equilibrium which depends on controllable behaviour and naps, both of which can be destroyed by one candy binge.


I've finally found something to do with all the leftover candy (especially in our house with all the dietary restrictions!)... we save it and make gingerbread houses for the holidays! Had lots of fun decorating last year.

The comments to this entry are closed.