Why letting your kids gorge on Halloween candy could be healthy

A few years ago Sarah Jedd, a blogger and communications professor at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a piece for a local mommy site explaining why she allows her children unfettered access to their Halloween candy.

The reaction to her post was anything but sweet.

“I got a lot of negative feedback, especially from the [publication’s] Facebook page, saying that’s terrible,” Jedd, 44, told The Post. “They said [kids’] teeth are going to rot.”

The mother of five said she doesn’t place limitations on her family’s candy consumption so that they ultimately eat less of it. Instead, they tend to dig into their trick-or-treating haul for a few days and then simply tire of it.

“This has always been our method. I feel like kids are naturally intuitive eaters, so they will figure out what is good for them,” said Jedd, adding that her laissez faire approach puts her in the minority.

Overflowing buckets of Halloween candy always present a nutritional conundrum for parents.
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“I definitely have a lot of friends who donate their kids’ candy, and I have some who dole it out piece by piece.”

The divisive issue of whether or not to restrict kids’ access to sugar can be the source of much tantrum-throwing each Halloween, but a small but growing faction believes that children should be able to gobble up as much as they want. Letting kids gorge on candies dovetails with a growing emphasis on autonomy for children in both parenting philosophies and educational approaches.

Wisconsin based writer Sarah Jedd allows her children, pictured here, to indulge in Halloween candy without limits.
Wisconsin-based writer Sarah Jedd allows her children, pictured here, to indulge in Halloween candy without limits.
MAUREEN SNYDER

“A parent has to trust that the kid is driven by their own needs and will,” said Carol Danaher, a registered dietician nutritionist and faculty member at the Ellyn Satter Institute, which advocates for a “division of responsibility” at meal time.

Their teachings stress that it’s the parent’s job to set up the structure and routine of meals, but that it is “the child’s responsibility to decide how much to eat from what is served,” said Danaher.

Halloween, she said, is “a special day” meant for enjoyment.

Kids in costume dig into their Halloween haul.
Kids in costume dig into their Halloween haul.
Getty Images/Image Source

“If they are restricted from sweet food or there’s guilt around them, the child will crave them more and they won’t have their natural limits.”

Meanwhile, Michigan-based mom Haley Schiech falls on the other side of the spectrum – at least when it comes to candy bars.

“I am not extreme where I don’t let them participate,” Scheich told The Post.

Instead, she and her husband, Dr. Tarek Pacha, who have a blended family of six, allow their kids to trick-or-treat and eat a piece or two of candy that night. Then they do the “switch witch,” where the kids hand over their candy and, much like an “elf on the shelf,” a good witch replaces it with a toy while they sleep.

Haley Scheich and her husband  Tarek Pacha run nutrition education platform My SuperHero Foods, and they trade out their children's Halloween candy for a toy to prevent them from eating processed food.
Haley Scheich and her husband Tarek Pacha run nutrition education platform My SuperHero Foods, and they trade out their children’s Halloween candy for a toy to prevent them from eating processed food.
Courtesy of Haley Scheich and Tarek Pacha.

The pair – who own My SuperHero Foods, a platform to educate families on the nutritional benefits of whole foods – don’t have a beef with sweets, per se.

Rather, they take issue with store-bought packaged versions made with artificial ingredients.

“The main purpose of these flavors is to light up and alter their tastebuds. There’s artificial food coloring, which is linked to behavioral disorders in kids and study after study is proving it,” said Scheich. (The FDA has said that the research linking artificial dyes with hyperactivity in children is inconclusive; in Europe, products with certain dyes contain warning labels.)

On Halloween night, they feed their kids a nutrient-dense dinner and dessert, such as homemade ice cream, which they say prevents them from craving candy. Rather, “They’re more excited about the toy in the morning,” said Scheich.

They acknowledge that they can’t control what the kids consume outside of the home, so they stress educating their offspring so they can make sensible choices.

“Kids are smarter than you think,” said Pacha. “And it’s our responsibility to control what we can control and they usually make the right choices.”

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