I don’t mind candy. Really, I don’t.
I’ve said it before: candy is an identifiable evil around here. We all know it’s junk; we all know if we eat too much it will make us feel like junk. So, we ‘treat’ ourselves with it… we don’t make it a regular part of our day or our diets.
(It’s the junk food masquerading as ‘healthy’ that get’s me concerned… but that’s for another day.)
So, the issue for me today isn’t the candy… the issue is: how can I teach my children that, even in the face of an over-abundance of treats, they can exercise self-control, moderation and even a little gratefulness?
Today on AM Northwest I shared my four easy steps for fending off the sugar overload (and using tonight as a platform for lifelong lessons). They are:
STEP 1: NOURISH BEFOREHAND
Just like we’re told not to grocery shop on an empty stomach, kids shouldn’t be sent out trick-or-treating on an empty stomach. They need protein and fiber – both of which will keep them feeling fuller, longer.
So, tonight of all nights, make dinner. Throw together a big pot of hearty bean and vegetable stew that will be warm and filling before they head into the cold night. Make a quick fried quinoa with sausage for them; or, just put out some hardboiled eggs, a plate of fruit, and some salami and cheese! (Filling them up on pasta or heavy cheesy food like pizza is a prime foundation for a stomach ache after the candy is added in.) If they get out with a tummy full of good stuff, it will be easier for them to exercise self-control when they are out and about with a bag of candy in their hand.
STEP 2: WATER
Mind the Water! Make sure your kids drink lots of water before heading out the door. (Hydration is the key to suppressing the urge to overindulge – for kids as much as adults!) No sugary drinks – WATER. Often we eat thinking we’re hungry… but we’re really just thirsty. So, keep them hydrated and, again, it will be easier for them to fight off the cravings and use self-control.
STEP 3: SET THE GROUND RULES
When my kids return with their stash, no candy gets eaten until they understand the rules of engagement with the candy: how much they’re allowed to eat, how much they’re allowed to keep, where it will be kept, and where all the leftover candy goes. (And, they always return home to fruit, cheese, and something warm, like apple cider.) They spread out, categorize, horse-trade, and, yes, I even let them eat until they can’t eat anymore. (Funny thing: they usually can’t eat as much as you would think because I’ve already stuffed them full of good food and water. Ha! Mommy wins without even fighting the battle!)
They each get a quart sized bag that they’re allowed to stuff to the brim with their favorites. (Lesson: Discernment.) The think and even agonize a little… but, ultimately, each child walks away with a bag of candy that is theirs and theirs alone.
(SIDE NOTE: I never allow candy in their bedrooms – ever. All the candy stays in the kitchen and they are allowed to pick one ‘treat’ a day (and maybe an extra or two with permission).)
And the extras? The extras become ‘family domain’; we toss everything else in a big plastic container and then….
STEP 4: HAVE A PLAN
There are so many things to do with the ‘extra’ candy that doesn’t include eating it:
- create a beautiful display of candy for an ice cream / froyo topping bar on a family movie night
- mix chocolates in with dried fruit and nuts for kids snacks
- create ‘thank you’ bags for your local firefighters, police officers, mail carriers, garbage workers – all those whose service often gets overlooked
- create ‘you’re a sweet friend’ bags the kids can surprise their friends with over the next couple of months
- drop the extra off in the teacher’s lounge at school with a little note that says “thank you for all you do”
- call your dentist / Orthodontist – many will often buy the candy from the kids
- send it to our troops via Operation Gratitude – again, another way to get our kids thinking about and appreciating those who give their lives for our safety.
- save it for your gingerbread houses (I can’t wait to tell you about our gingerbread house tradition in December!)
Sound too harsh? I hope not… because it works. It relieves my stress, it keeps us on track as a family. And, believe it or not, I think my kids are happy to have parameters put around this day of over-indulgence – not to mention I think they’re thrilled to know that, while mommy makes them eat quinoa on a regular basis, they’ll never be forbidden a little extra sweetness in their day.
Happy Halloween everyone! Be safe…and here’s the link: