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Let kids enjoy Halloween treats


Every year around Halloween, parents wrestle with the perennial question: How much should I let my kids eat? If your child doesn’t have food allergies or diabetes, I say, let ’er rip!

On Halloween night, allow the kids to eat as much as they want. If they eat themselves sick, they’ll learn a valuable lesson about the consequences of overeating. And one night of excess calories won’t cause any lasting damage.

In the days afterward, giving kids a couple of pieces after meals can be a good option.

For children who have diabetes or food allergies, however, unbridled access to candy could be dangerous. As always, parents need to help children with diabetes count carbohydrates. They can work small amounts of candy into meal plans at Halloween.

For children with food allergies, it’s important for parents to help children read labels to make sure the candy doesn’t contain peanuts or whatever they’re allergic to. Unfortunately, most chocolate is contaminated because most chocolate factories also process nuts.

After the first night, there are a few ways to handle leftover candy. One option is to buy back unwanted candy from the kids for a few cents a piece. Even perfectly healthy kids like this idea—they can use the money they “earn” to buy a new toy, book, movie ticket, music or whatever. Also, this lets children with diabetes or allergies get rid of their candy and still have fun.

If days pass and you still have candy left in the house that your youngster can’t bear to part with, consider keeping the treats out of sight in the pantry. Then offer a handful of candy as dessert at dinnertime.

I don’t think it’s necessary to take candy away from children who are overweight—in fact, it may do more harm than good. Research shows that young girls whose mothers outlawed junk foods were more likely to binge on those foods when parents were away.

Instead of banning candy, consider treating overweight children like everyone else in the family so they learn moderation, not deprivation or excess.

It goes without saying that it’s especially important to provide balanced meals the day of Halloween—skipping meals could provoke binge-eating after trick-or-treating.

And as usual, encourage children to play, be physically active and to brush and floss their teeth.

Editor’s note: A version of this column was printed in The Free Lance–Star in October 2007.

Jennifer Motl welcomes reader questions via her website,, or by email at