Teaching Healthy Eating Habits, the Halloween Edition
Happy Halloween! Hello Halloween Candy! Now take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. The sugary, chocolatey, overloaded goodness that is Halloween is supposed to be a nutrition nightmare. I mean, no-one wants to be the house that hands out apples, but sugar is supposed to be bad for you, right? The confusion (and stress) is real.
Luckily, there’s an option, and that involves using Halloween to teach your kids some healthy eating habits. And I’m not talking about using banana ghouls, clementine pumpkins and melon brains in replacing the sugar, nor am I talking about buy-backs, candy fairies and stealth dumps. Let’s face it, trying to talk your kids out of their Halloween haul is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Why? Because these techniques don’t actually teach children how to manage this overload, which is the important conversation that we need to start having. Kids aren’t just exposed to abundance at Halloween, they’re exposed to it every single time they buy something. The candy stacked next to the grocery store check out, the chocolate chip cookie that’s literally the size of their head and the candy drawer at the cottage. What we really want to do with this Hallow-Holiday is to teach our children how to eat without over-indulging, how to experiment with new foods and flavours and how to fit “unhealthy” foods into your diet in a healthy way.
Step 1: Become a Browser
Ever stand at a buffet? Some people load everything starting at the beginning and others will browse first and then consume what they’re really interested in. The goal becomes teaching your children to be browsers, not loaders. Encourage them to scan their stash, maybe sort it, and pick out what they like best. Then consider letting them swap out candy they don’t like for one’s they do. This teaches children how to eat what they like, not just what they have.
Step 2: Taste Test
Yes, you probably wish your kids were as up for trying new foods as they are for trying new candies but bear with me a moment. When you’re out with your children be cognizant of the words you’re using. Saying “you won’t like that candy, choose this one instead” is actually inadvertently telling your children that they should be cautious about trying any new food. Instead, encourage taste testing. Compare how things look, taste, smell and how they feel in their hands. The mission? To find one that they like best (not to mention it will also probably reduce the size of their stash).
Step 3: Think BIG
Recognize that proportions aren’t just an issue when it comes to Halloween, and that sweets and treats are truly everywhere. Use statements like “we eat fruits and vegetables more often than candy” to help even young children to understand how to fit those treats into a lifestyle. Work to establish limits on how many candies your kids can eat each day, but let your kids eat that candy whenever they want. This gives your children the control they crave with the limits they need.
Healthy eating habits aren’t about limiting and excluding foods from diets, it’s about having a conversation around how to mange many different types of things in your diet at the same time. Also, Halloween is ONE day. Enjoy it!
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