For kids, the ultimate Halloween dream likely features buckets full of sweet, sticky candy. They’ll sit right down in the middle of their haul and tear into piece after piece. By the end of the night, the only thing left will be smears of chocolate and a pile of empty wrappers.
That might be a kid’s dream come true. For parents, it sounds more like a nightmare.
But, parents, you may be on the losing side in this fight. According to some experts, one wild night of candy consumption may actually be better for your kids than stretching the treats out for days on end – assuming they can eat candy in the first place, of course.
Should your kids savor their treats or gobble them all at once? Turns out, there’s more than one way to look at it.
Disclaimer: The following is for information only and should not be used as a substitute for medical guidance. Talk to your child’s doctor about candy consumption or any other concerns.
Candy and Cavities
If your first response to a candy binge night is, “You’ll rot your teeth!” then you’re in for a surprise. Dental experts say that it doesn’t really matter how much candy your kids eat in a session.
Tooth decay happens when sugar mixes with the bacteria in your mouth. Together, they form an acidic substance that does a number on tooth enamel.
More sugar all at once doesn’t necessarily compound the effect. There’s a limit to how much acid the bacteria in your mouth can produce in a short time frame. So as long as your kids are having two pieces of candy, they might as well have more. The acid produced on that one day probably won’t cause too much long-term damage.
Besides, kids typically trick-or-treat in the evening. So after finishing their candy fests, they’re more likely to brush their teeth and hop into bed. Brushing and rinsing will clear away the sugar. The less time it’s in kids’ mouths, the better.
But eating candy on a daily basis produces an entirely different result.
Every day, a whole new batch of acid will be produced. Every day, it will do damage to your kids’ teeth. And that effect can really add up. Plus, if kids eat candy here and there throughout the day, they may not think about brushing afterwards. That can make the problem even worse.
From a dental health perspective, eating candy all at once may actually be better for your kids’ teeth. Of course, dental health isn’t the only concern when it comes to sugary treats.
Another Reason to Go for It
Sure, eating a pound of Halloween candy isn’t exactly good for your body. But, in the long run, it may help your children develop a healthier relationship with food.
Strict rules around food and eating can spell trouble. Food restrictions often lead to cravings. This is true for both adults and kids. The more you’re told you can’t have something, the more you might want it. But if you indulge from time to time, you might be less likely to overeat all the time.
Granted, cutting your kids off after 10 candy bars probably won’t cause disordered eating on its own. But on the other hand, one night of free-for-all indulgence a year might help kids learn how to listen to their bodies. It could even help improve their relationship with sweets in general.
Indulging on Halloween also builds memories. This experience reminds kids that life isn’t all about rules. Sometimes, you can simply forget about calorie counts and enjoy a memorable experience with your family.
Caveats to Halloween Binging
Despite these positives, endless candy chomping could have some less desirable side effects.
The biggest drawback to candy freedom is an upset tummy. Some kids will have the self-control to stop once they’ve reached their limits. Others will overdo it. You know your children best. If you aren’t interested in nursing a sick kid all night, you may need to put some guidelines in place.
Blood sugar is another concern. A candy binge can cause blood sugar levels to spike. That’s certainly an issue for kids with diabetes or other health complications.
It’s not ideal for any kids, though. To help balance things, feed your kids something else along with the candy. Choose foods with a good deal of fiber or unsaturated fats.
And, of course, if your child has diabetes or another medical condition that makes excess sugar consumption a no go, then stick to your guns. You can create family memories in other ways that don’t involve a bucket of sweets.
Ideas for Halloween Candy
Let’s face it: even the most sugar-loving kids can eat only so much candy in one night. There’s a good chance you’ll have plenty of leftovers after Halloween.
If it stays in the house, it will probably get eaten. Your kids will beg for more. (Moms and dads, you might find yourselves snacking on it, too.)
Getting rid of the cavity-causing temptation might be best in this case. But if throwing it in the trash seems like a waste, try putting the candy to good use instead. Believe it or not, you can donate candy.
Soldiers’ Angels runs a program called Treats for Troops. Your family can send leftover Halloween candy to a collection point. The treats will be shipped to people who are deployed. You can even organize a group collection event for your scout troop, workplace or community club.
To keep your candy local, look for nearby organizations that take individually wrapped candy donations. For instance, the Ronald McDonald House in your area may accept candy donations. Others who may eagerly take your leftovers include food pantries, nursing homes, kids’ clubs and schools.
If you can’t find a local donation site, turn some of the candy into an educational experience. There are all sorts of children’s science experiments that can be done with leftover treats. Little Bins for Little Hands has a list of candy experiments to get you started.
How to Spread Out Candy Consumption
Despite dentists’ urging to get the candy out of the way in just one night, that might not be your thing. That’s okay. Every family has a different approach to Halloween treats.
To keep your kids as healthy as possible with a bucket of candy in the house, put these tips into practice:
- Focus on chocolate candies rather than sticky ones. Chocolate residue doesn’t adhere to the teeth as strongly as fruit chews and caramels do.
- Encourage your kids to brush their teeth after every treat. The sooner the sugar gets rinsed away, the less tooth decay there will be.
- Don’t use candy as a reward for finishing a meal. That can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
- Pair candy with other foods. Encourage kids to eat it alongside a glass of water and a well-rounded snack or meal. Protein, fats and fiber help protect blood sugar levels.
As long as you’re regularly putting fruits, veggies and other healthy items in front of your kids, one Halloween hoopla a year should be just fine. And if you’re not comfortable with this approach, that’s okay, too. You can make your own food rules for your family.
But if you want to try letting your kids eat their fill of sweets on October 31st, then consider serving a nutritious dinner before the trick-or-treating and then letting them go for it.