Mindful Treats

For kids, Halloween is the unofficial start of the holiday season. Parties and the treats that go right along with them shift from being something kids might be offered at a birthday party or other event to having them in their possession after trick or treating. While we struggle to manage the sack of candy we also face the flood of parties that accompany the rest of the festive season.

Mulled Cider

I believe it’s important to separate out the two different challenges of the holiday season. The first is the busy party calendar. We know when these events are happening. We can plan for them, or more importantly, plan around them. In my opinion the greater challenge is the influx of treats and other foods we ordinarily consider as sometimes foods into our otherwise “safe” home environment. When treats, candy and the like are within our reach, and in our view, they tend to lose their identity as a food we aren’t supposed to have every day. This is the “treat” space that is hard for us, imagine what it’s like for our kids.

The goal is to build strong levees to hold back a potential treat flood; to aim for balance in an otherwise potentially imbalanced season. Kids won’t do this on their own, and admittedly it takes significant parental influence and control, but I assure you that if you build the foundation today, your kids will be able to take it from there as they grow. Most adults tell me that they wish someone had given them better diet skills when they were young and developing habits. With these strategies we have the opportunity to do just that for our kids.

Hide the candy, “sell” the candy, donate the candy…just get rid of it. Trick-or-treating is fun (and gets kids walking!), but think about the end result… to collect a huge bag of candy! Find a way to lessen your candy load by taking advantage of one of the “buy back” or donation programs in your area.

Teach your kids to do a belly “check in” to assess true hunger before digging into their treat bag. Sweet makes you want more sweet so their “taste” for candy may be heightened. This is especially important at night when we often we eat out of habit. A belly “check in” is an important skill teach our kids because the bottom line is that when we spot a treat…we want a treat and forget to reflect on whether we are even hungry or need to eat something.

Keep it in the kitchen. Don’t let candy go to the bedroom or other spaces where kids do homework or watch t.v. Doing so could develop emotional eating or associative eating habits if kids begin to turn to candy when they are frustrated with homework, bored or looking for a t.v. snack.

Ask, ask, ask about possible treats consumed at school or at other activities so that you ensure they don’t double up or indulge too often. Kids won’t remember to tell you: you have to help them with these unexpected treats that they’ll have trouble recalling.

When in doubt…use a schedule. It’s okay to be genuinely hungry for a snack (especially when we do a good job at monitoring portions at dinner), but that can be fruit or yogurt, not a sweet. It may be helpful to use a schedule to monitor treats and space them appropriately. Note: the goal here is to use a schedule to note “treat night,” but not to purposely build them in (e.g., Tues., Thur. & Sat. as “treat” days) as doing so may make kids feel like they have to enjoy their treat on these days.

For more on this important topic, check out my post on 5 Ways to Manage Treat Time.