HALLOWEEN means an autumn night filled with excited, costumed children, running from house to house in a frenzied effort to gather as much candy as possible. Once home, you’re faced with a seemingly endless pile of sweets...what’s a parent to do?

Most of us admit to raiding our ...HALLOWEEN means an autumn night filled with excited, costumed children, running from house to house in a frenzied effort to gather as much candy as possible. Once home, you’re faced with a seemingly endless pile of sweets...what’s a parent to do?

Most of us admit to raiding our children's candy stash, so the struggle is not just with the kids. After the trick-or-treating is done, the challenge turns to successfully negotiating the looming mountain of candy. To tackle this gut-busting, artery clogging issue, here are some suggestions to ration, store and use the candy in a fair, calorically rational and practical manner:

• Get and Give. Build a sense of shared responsibility by encouraging your child(ren) to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. It’s a wonderful tradition to have children do something for others so make a deal that they must collect ask for change to fill the UNICEF box while asking for candy to fill their sacks.

• Offer A Non-Edible Treat. Consider giving out something other than candy. Some Halloween ideas include a spider ring, a mini pinball game, glider, ball, pencil, stickers, whistle, or a similar ghoulish toy that will outlast the candy and be cherished just for being different. The most common remark at my house has been “Cool, a toy, check it out”. Halloween novelties can be found in bulk at www.ustoy.com or www.orientaltrading.com, but you must plan to order far enough in advance.

• Portion Control. Most families do best when a comfort zone on when and how much candy is consumed in day that falls somewhere in between allowing too much candy and completely denying it. Most Halloween candy comes in snack-size and miniatures, which should be viewed as a welcome form of portion control; rationing the number of treats that becomes the trick. Calories add up, especially if kids aren't really active, and can become a body weight issue in time. It may also be helpful to stress that Halloween is a once-a-year event so expectations of a candy free-for-all all the time won’t be happening.

• Fill the Tank Wisely Before They Begin. Just as you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when hungry, it’s best to give your kids something nourishing before they go out to trick-or-treat. The challenge is finding something they’ll actually eat in their excited and dressed-up state. Even if it’s a cheese stick or a yogurt, and some fruit, or a bowl of cereal and a banana, it will help balance the overindulgence that can be expected throughout the evening.


Often, kids may sample some treats as they make their way through the neighborhood. This can be factored into the negotiation about how much or how many they get to eat when they get home.

• SORT IT OUT. First, make a game out of sorting the candy into two piles: favorites and rejects. Toss out the “dislike” pile immediately.

• ESTABLISH A POLICY. Encourage each child to pick a few favorites. Then agree on “how much”. This is a decision you need to lead rather than one they force on you. It’s helpful to set a policy for candy consumption that is clearly stated for the days after Halloween -- be it one piece a day, or whatever you want before you begin your homework-- make a plan and stick with it; consistency will last you a lifetime!

• BURN IT OFF. Physical activity should be part of the “how much” decision, Children who are more active will use up the extra calories. If kids go out to play for at least 30 minutes after they eat the candy, they will be learning about energy balance, a lesson that can go a long way toward establishing good lifestyle habits. And, this message goes regardless of the age of the candy-eaters. Parents who indulge should set an example by being more active. Plan a family hike or bike ride, a dog walk after dinner. How about grabbing the rake, you’ll get needed yard work done and the kids will stay busy and active jumping in the piles and then helping to bag them.

• RESERVE IT TO BAKE IT. Have everyone contribute their m&ms and other chocolates to make Halloween-inspired cookies or congo bars. Put aside hard candies and other sweets that that might look great atop a gingerbread house for a future decorating project. Some candy or cookies can be crushed, frozen and used as topping on ice cream or cakes.

• OUT OF SIGHT Is Out Of Mind. This is especially true for younger kids. Promote the “if I don’t see it, it’s not there” concept by putting the favorites stash into a bag or Halloween jar for a set time and placing it an unobtrusive location. After 2 weeks, put the remaining “must keep” candy in the pantry or freezer so it’s no longer visible as a daily reminder. This can be brought out for long road trips or tossed when room is needed.

A note on storage: Candy can be stored in a cool place for up to six months in an airtight container, according to the National Confectioners Association. Freezing candy prolongs its shelf life, but frozen chocolate should be taken out right before it’s eaten because radical temperature changes can cause a bloom -- warmth causes the sugar and cocoa butter in chocolate to rise to the surface, forming what looks like white coating. Bloomed chocolate is still safe to eat but the taste may be slightly altered.

• KEEP IT HOME. While it may be expected or tempting to stick a treat in the lunch box, please refrain. Honor the federal School Wellness Policy that mandates that foods with no nutritional value be prohibited. Also, having candy during school raises unpleasant and unnecessary competition and peer pressure. Instead, reserve candy for enjoyment at home.

• KEEP THEM SMILING. This constant candy consumption offers an opportunity to reinforce the importance of brushing teeth (for two minutes) at least twice daily, and flossing, too!

Author's Bio: 

Jodi R. Godfrey, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian with 25 years of experience promoting health and wellness. My focus is working with families to develop good nutrition and lifestyle habits and I take a special interest in working with women from pregnancy through family meal planning. Ms. Godfrey is an accomplished writer. For more than a decade, she has been contributing editor to the Journal of Women’s Health, a peer reviewed, multidisciplinary publication and she hosts the blog, Feeding Kids and You, feedingkidsandyou.blogspot.com.

She was nutrition editor for Santé, a gourmet cooking magazine featuring heart-healthy eating, and 2 books: The Laptop Lunch User’s Guide: Fresh Ideas for Making Wholesome, Earth-Friendly lunches Your Kids Will Love (T. Morning Run Press, 2002) and On Your Way To Fitness: A Practical Guide to Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight and Physical Fitness (The C. Everett Koop Foundation, 1995).