Do you feel like you struggle with how to navigate Halloween candy? The first step you can take is to switch out the diet culture language for anti-diet language that supports building and maintaining a positive relationship with food. Halloween is just around the corner! So, keep reading to find out how to start decreasing the struggle around candy today by eliminating diet culture from Halloween.
We also have other blog posts and podcast episodes with anti-diet dietitians that will help you navigate sweets all year long. Let's Talk About Sugar; What About Dessert; and podcast episode 17: A Diet Culture Free Holiday Season! with Haley Goodrich.
Table of contents
- How do you talk about your kids' Halloween candy?
- Is your goal to foster a positive relationship with food?
- What happens if parents make candy forbidden?
- What to say about your kid's Halloween candy.
- Enjoy Eating Halloween Candy with Your Kids
- Kids and Candy
- Are you looking for more tips to navigate Halloween candy?
How do you talk about your kids' Halloween candy?
How you talk to and around children about food has a lasting impact. Do you want our children to remember Halloween events' fun and silly parts or the fear-based diet culture messages about candy and Halloween treats?
Is your goal to foster a positive relationship with food?
We all know candy isn’t the most nutritious food out there. However, food and our relationships with food are complicated. It's not black and white. As we raise children to have a positive relationship around all foods, the goal is not for them to eat the most nutritious food today. It's helpful to zoom out.
The goal is for kids to have exposure to different foods in neutral and positive ways and grow up with food being important, but not TOO important, in their lives.
What happens if parents make candy forbidden?
If we make it forbidden or evoke fear or shame around it, we complicate our children’s (and our own) relationship with food. The more an item is forbidden, the more children may seek out that food. And possibly begin sneaking it. As children seek out the forbidden food, they may feel feelings of shame:
“If candy is bad, and I eat candy, am I bad?”
Other children may become fearful of the forbidden food, avoiding it all together with anxiety and confusion about why trusted adults make the “bad” food available to them:
“If candy is bad and will hurt me, why is my mom letting me get candy?”
What to say about your kid's Halloween candy.
Instead of using these examples of diet culture language:
- “Whoa, you need to keep that candy away from me."
- "Mommy can't eat bad food like that."
- “Be careful; you’re going to have all that bad food from Halloween and get a sugar rush.”
- “We’re going to be bad tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll eat "good" foods.”
- "You better eat lots of healthy food tonight before we go out and get all that junk food."
- "Be careful you don't eat too much candy and give yourself a tummy ache."
Try anti-diet language instead:
- “Let’s sit down and eat supper before we head out to trick-or-treat.”
- "Look at your stash. Yum!"
- "I loved seeing your excitement tonight! Your costume was amazing."
- "Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite. Can I have one?"
- "What's your favorite Halloween candy that you got tonight?"
- "Enjoy your candy."
Enjoy Eating Halloween Candy with Your Kids
Children learn best through modeling and experiences, not necessarily from what we tell them with our words. If your child never sees you eating candy, that sends a confusing message. If you do avoid eating candy, we encourage you to take a moment to ask yourself what's behind that behavior.
Kids and Candy
By allowing kids to eat candy and by not demonizing it, we model for our children that it's okay for candy to be a part of their lives. And we support them in growing up as intuitive eaters and not a conflicted relationship with food and their bodies.
Are you looking for more tips to navigate Halloween candy?
If you find your child sneaking candy, the best thing to do is to get curious. Ask them what's going on that's making them feel they need to sneak it. Young children, older children, and teens often sneak candy (and other foods) because they feel restricted.
Diet culture is best defined by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CEDRD, author of Anti-Diet and The Wellness Trap. She defines it as Harrison defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that “worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue,” promotes weight loss and maintaining a low weight as a way to elevate social status, and demonizes certain foods and eating styles while it elevates others. If you'd like to read more about diet culture, I highly recommend Christine Byrne’s article, What Does Diet Culture Mean and Why is it Harmful.
If your child has food allergies, you can still practice talking about the candy they can eat using neutral and ant-diet phrases. If you’d like more information about how to have a safe Halloween, visit Food Allergy Research & Education.