By Laura Bottoms-chief, Clinical Dietetics Branch-Nutrition Services, IRAHCOctober 29, 2018
Halloween candy be a tricky topic for most families with kids. As parents we worry about the dangers of added sugar in foods and that our child will overeat it which can lead to obesity and health problems.
Excessive consumption of added sugar, like that found in candy, has been linked to diseases and poor health outcomes. However, as parents our job is to help our children learn to navigate a challenging world filled with delicious tasty candy.
Research shows, when we restrict our kid's intake of any food and label these foods forbidden, it often has the opposite effect. We teach our kids that there is something special about these high sugar and high fat foods and they often become more desirable.
As a dietitian, that often works with families' and as a mom of a 4 year old myself, I'm often asked how I handle the sticky situation of Halloween candy at my house.
I recommend what I practice at home, the Division of Responsibility. Division of Responsibility is a feeding model developed by Registered Dietitian, Ellyn Satter. Satter teaches that when it comes to feeding, parents/caregivers and kids each have their own unique and individual roles. Problems occur when we begin to cross this careful division. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of eating and kids, the how much and if.
When it comes to candy, most parents, cringe at this point, but I ask that you hear me out. Follow these strategies to help your kids responsibly enjoy their Halloween stash.
On Halloween, allow unlimited access to their stash. Let them revival in the joy of trick or treating. When you get home, let them dump it out and after checking it for safety, allow them to eat and enjoy as much at that time as they want. You can even allow this the next day. After that, I recommend, putting it away, as in out of sight, but allow access to it at meal and snack time. One or two pieces at meals and as much as they want at snack time.
The core of Satter's strategy is to relegate it [candy] to meal- and snack-time. Structure is key. It is important to maintain the structure of meals and sit-down snacks. As the parents you retain the leadership role in choosing the rest of the food that goes on the table. Serve it with a balanced plate of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein and at snacks offer it with a glass of milk. Allow the child to eat the candy in any order 1st, last, in the middle--it makes no difference.
The goal is that, we as parents, allow our child to eat of what is offered of food and candy until they are satisfied.
When we teach our kids that we trust them to honor their hunger, they do their job well and eat what their body needs. Satter stresses, "With that kind of structure and foundation, candy won't spoil a child's diet or make him too fat."
Candy will start to lose some of the power it has over all of us and we can learn that it too can fit in as part of a balanced diet.
For more information on the Division of Responsibility check out www.ellynsatterinstitute.org or schedule an appointment with the dietitians at IRAHC. 502-624-9713/624-0408.
About the Author: Laura Bottoms Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Ireland Army Health Clinic. Her passion is helping clients to develop a loving relationship with all foods.