In 2018, an era when debates about children and food are unending and unyielding, the post-Halloween period has become a problem for well-meaning parents. On what other day of the year does your child come home with multiple pounds of candy? And what other holiday encourages people to give away as much junk food as possible — often as a reward, but sometimes as a bribe to prevent the unruly among our collective progeny from egging and toilet-papering our homes?
But the Halloween candy conversation is often more than just a typical parent-child disagreement: More and more parents who struggle with helping their children maintain good health, and with good reason. Over the years, health statistics for children of trick-or-treating age have only become more disconcerting.
For instance, an increasing number of children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to the body’s inability to keep up with the amount of sugar in its blood. Recent studies have shown that far too many toddlers are consuming more than the amount of sugar found in a Snicker’s bar each day. An increase in sugar — and carbohydrates in general — in the standard American diet is directly connected to chronic diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and the attachment to the taste of sweets is hard to break.
And as noted by a CDC researcher in the aforementioned study, the predilection for super-sweet tastes starts early, and only increases as the child ages, potentially leading down a path towards poor health.
Reasonably, even parents with currently healthy children are reluctant to support them in fully indulging in the spoils of their trick-or-treating, while others may suffer from compulsive and uncontrollable eating themselves, making a plastic pumpkin full of landmines for struggling parents to trip over. Some parents have long had disciplined systems for handling Halloween candy.
Some parents, like my own mom, simply made the candy disappear faster than I was keeping track of: Every time I saw the giant plastic pumpkin, there was less candy inside. Others try to limit the candy to one piece per night, in hopes that the kids ultimately get tired of it altogether (and maybe it becomes the candy given out next year).
Yet other parents prefer to opt out of Halloween altogether which, of course, comes at a loss for the children, who miss out on seeing their classmates in their colorful and creative costumes, laughing and playing and meeting neighbors.Even trading candy afterwards can be an incredibly memorable experience for them.
For instance, my oldest (now approaching her teen years) will gladly tell you how one of her favorite early memories is being four, dressed up as Minnie Mouse and handing out candy to the older neighborhood children who came to our door. Neighbors who were taking their own children around to trick-or-treat would reach in their own pocket and hand her candy, and she’d beam with joy as she put it in her own little pumpkin.
Halloween, despite the junk food concerns in modern-day America, is a time for the community to come together, even if it’s in full costume and involves sticking your hand in a bowl full of peeled grapes masquerading as eyeballs.
If the candy causes you concern, though, invite The Switch Witch over: Much like how Santa Claus takes your cookies and milk and brings you toys, the Switch Witch takes your Halloween candy that you’ve left out and replaces it with the same. You can even incentivize it by inviting your children to take out a handful of their favorite treats, and then setting the rest out for sacrificing to the Switch Witch for something they’ll enjoy for longer than the candy.
Halloween is a day intended for children to dress up and have fun, but nowadays it might be time to start redefining what that “fun” entails. We can preserve the spirit of the holiday while encouraging moderation or, even, reducing the attachment to sweet tastes altogether. And, if we need to ask for a little help from a friendly Switch Witch, I can’t think of a better holiday for that.