Skip to content

Sugar Season

October 29, 2010

So maybe right now I’ve got my hands in a bag of stale donut crumbs. And maybe they’re not even that good–not good like, say, the sweet/spicy complexity of the tomato salsa I made this week, garlicky with a cilantro right-hook. But good in that way that I’ll scour the scritchy depths of the bag in a fog of longing until every last mouse-nibble has been accounted for.

And I’ve noticed that it’s that season again where everywhere you turn there’s a caramel apple winking gloppily at you, or a frost-your-own-cupcake party for kids, or an upcoming holiday where you can go knocking on strangers doors, mutter a worn out phrase and THEY GIVE YOU CANDY!

And here’s the thing. I’m not so down on sugar (although holy chemical warfare am I down on food coloring and artificial flavors). It’s just that I want my kids to learn how to enjoy occasional sweets, savor and moan over them even, realize the sensation of fullness and then move on. Which sounds as attainable as waking up tomorrow without caffeine and having a productive day, which is to say, if you put a bag of stale donuts in my halloween bag, I too would gobble up every last sugar-dusted chunk and throw a tantrum for more. And lets just say that when the Halloween booty goes on top of the fridge Sunday night for parental-rationing, there will fierce pining. There will be Harvard Law School type negotiations to get Just One More Piece. There will be sneakiness and begging and caving in and yes, there will be parents sneaking little wrappers full of sugar after the kids go to bed.

How do you manage Halloween candy? Ration or let ’em at it? Encourage your kids to trade in their loot for flax seed lollipops or let them experience the crash after a sugar high? Do you think there’s a path to a heathy relationship with sugar?

ps: I wish I had a picture to show you of Col and Rose in their costumes. Rose is a cowgirl, stumping along on a wooden stick with a unicorn head. Col was going to be an Indian (which has its own worrisome political incorrectness) and then decided to be a cowboy so “Rosie wouldn’t be lonely.”

32 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2010 6:54 am

    I am right there with you (and even on the artificial colors and whatnot – my kids are so sensitive to that stuff!!) My little ones love sweets (who doesn’t?) and this time of year is always hard to teach moderation, and to live it.
    Wish I were a help… but just know you’re not alone :)

  2. October 29, 2010 7:00 am

    You know I agree. First, I love the last paragraph up there.

    Out of sight, out of mind works around here. Margot or course loves sweets but when she can’t see them she happily eats yogurt and apples with peanut butter. Maybe that changes…I wonder if the key is not making a habit of it. I know that’s true for me…every once in a while I will eat ice cream every single night after dinner and then I CANNOT SURVIVE without it. Sugar is sneaky like that.

  3. October 29, 2010 7:03 am

    Also, there is some beauty in having at a bag of halloween candy. I have the greatest memories of sorting and eating my stash. And more organizing. I was kind of an ocd kid. Wish I had a bit of ocd now and maybe I wouldn’t be burying my face in my computer trying to avoid the tornado in my living room…

  4. October 29, 2010 7:20 am

    Ugh, that candy. They usually gorge themselves while trickertreating (we know all of our candy-givers so fear no razor blades–not that I fear razor blades anyway), then the candy disappears to be doled out one at a time (minus a few butter fingers and reeses peanut butter cups) over the next few weeks as “eat all your dinner” bribes, till I get tired of the tears and the candy congeals into a dusty, humidity-dissolved mass that goes into the landfill.

  5. October 29, 2010 10:48 am

    Halloween is a magical holiday for kids. I love that they love this holiday for dressing up, decorating the house and carving pumpkins. I don’t trade them money for their candy. What I do Rachael is simple. I emphasize the fun parts of the holiday. We eat the candy that night and I talk to them about how the candy makes them feel. We just do a lot of talking. My kids ask me all the time whether something is healthy for them. The candy frenzy is over soon enough and we can get on to MY favorite holiday..Thanksgiving!

  6. Dan permalink
    October 29, 2010 11:15 am

    Fun, Honey, I like the your style! Love, Dan

  7. October 29, 2010 11:23 am

    Our kiddos are still little and going “all the way around the block” is a long enough expedition for Halloween. Being able to limit like that makes it a bit easier. Less territory covered = less candy. We eat a few on Halloween night and then ration out, just like you. I cringe at the thought of red dye entering their bodies and cringe again when I can tell that it is affecting my son’s behavior. Most of the time we try to avoid it in moderation and consume it in moderation. (Except for the grown-ups who can’t buy candy until the day before Halloween to ensure that there is still some to share with trick-or-treaters.)
    A sad experience this year. I sent organic fruit leathers (so very much better than candy HA!) as a treat to be included in the preschool party halloween bags. Maybe they were overlooked, maybe they were mistaken for a regular snack, maybe they were to “crunchy” or not Halloweeny enough but they were not included in the bags. My son wasn’t saddened as he was too excited by the candy and the plastic crap in the bag to even notice. I was a bit hurt though, so I drowned my sorrows in a tiny bag of m-and-m’s!
    Thanks for talking about the tough stuff.
    Have a most Happy Halloween!

  8. October 29, 2010 11:52 am

    Well, do I EVER have something to say about this! Ha ha ha! We do NOT give Cole the candy from trick-or-treating. We trade it for a toy. We usually go, that day, or the next day to the toy store, and pick out pretty much whatever he wants, and he is happy with that. I have friends who do a similar thing, I think they call it the “candy goblin” who comes in the night and takes all the candy to the kids who don’t have any, if you leave it on the porch before you go to bed on Halloween. The candy goblin leaves you something in return. I do usually let Cole pick out ONE piece of candy to have, maybe two small ones, but that’s it, and we do TALK about it. Also, I still try to bribe him out of that, by saying I’ll bake him a whole batch of homemade muffins or even chocolate brownies, if he’ll just skip the crap candy. Usually he is up for the trading. This year, his school passed out little boxes for the kids to go “trick-or-treat” for UNICEF. It seems like a good idea to inspire kids to collect money for those in need, instead of candy, and many of them do it, too! I saw the promotional video, and it is convincing… at any rate, Cole informed me that he STILL was planning on collecting candy…. So who knows, really!? I do remember one year my mom said I could have ONE piece of candy each day until it was gone, and I LOVED that! I looked forward to it each day, and she kept it on the fridge, and there was no arguing, I just knew that everyday I could have a piece… maybe that’s a good bargain!?

  9. October 29, 2010 2:58 pm

    This will be the first year for us, too, that my kiddos remember their candy stash after the first day or two. It will be interesting to see how it goes down. I’m tempted to eat it all after they go to bed Sunday night (throwing out the Tootsie Rolls, Starbursts, all-things-licorice, and other candy offensive to my taste buds, of course). But that wouldn’t be setting a very good example of savoring one or two pieces at a time, would it?

    It’s funny, when I was a kid, I rationed my Halloween candy like nobody’s business. I mean, I had to throw last year’s candy away when Halloween rolled around again. Now? I can’t keep chocolate in my house on a permanent basis because it taunts me regularly to Eat. It. All. What went wrong? Hormones, probably. And three consecutive years of Terrible Twos.

  10. October 29, 2010 3:02 pm

    And interestingly, one of my friends just posted this on Facebook:

    “The Good Switch Witch: Let your kids choose 8 pieces of candy and then put the bucket of remaining goodies in/on the fireplace. At night the Good Switch Witch will switch the bucket of sugar for a great toy. Kids get to keep favorites and get a toy.”

    I suppose it’s picking the lesser evil, candy galore or a toy bribe. Maybe Col and Rose will go for an elk-horn surprise or a bucket of tomatoes??

  11. October 29, 2010 3:13 pm

    Sugar Sprite! Works like a charm and seems to be a good middle ground. We let the kids keep a few treasured pieces and the rest is left out for the sprite…. there’s a link to the story on my blog :)

  12. rose permalink
    October 29, 2010 3:15 pm

    I think making rules about food is dangerous and I try to avoid it as much as possible. Like Kyndale above I talk a lot about how my body feels when I eat certain things, both good and bad. Generally we do not have anything in the house that I don’t want them to have. If it’s not around there is nothing to argue about. My girls are 5 and 2 and they don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with not getting what they want when it is right there in front of them and the only thing standing in their way is their mean old mom. So, about Halloween: this will be the first year of trick or treating and my plan is to let them eat as much as they want that night and the rest goes in the trash. I have told the 5yo about this and she is okay with it for now. We’ll see what happens when she wakes up the morning after jonesing for another fix and her stash is gone. As for the 2yo, I will do my best to distract her from even going up to the doors with the other kids with the hope that she only ends up with a few pieces of her own.

    Fighting about candy everyday from Nov 1st until it’s gone might do more damage than letting them regulate themselves and see how it feels to eat yourself sick. I think the fiendish desire for more and more candy or toys or whatever might be more a fight for power and autonomy than an actual desire for the stuff itself. I don’t know. Tricky stuff this parenting, huh?

  13. October 29, 2010 3:31 pm

    Jane’s only two, so if she ends up with candy, we’ll probably just confiscate it. But I can’t be bothered with that, because all I can think about is donuts…..

  14. October 29, 2010 3:53 pm

    last year, the bear was 1 1/2yo and we did “reverse trick-or-treating” – aka handing out fair trade dark chocolate samples with a little postcard talking about, ya know – *child slave labor* and chocolate production.
    we’re real real festive, i do what i can…
    this year, bear’s going trick-or-treating with his dad – they feed him partially hydrogenated sugar bombs as regular BREAKFAST food (*major mama snarling*), so i’m sure the child will be eyeball deep in sugar until december.

    co-parenting effing Sucks.

    when i get him next year, i think i will either do the “you can eat it tonight, but then it’s in the trash” or come up with something more creative, (giving it away to friends? taking it somewhere? giving people stuff we’ve made or harvested instead of getting candy…?)

    i do have to say, we did the charlie brown haloween train to the ranch north of the glider park, and people were practically *throwing* twizzlers and lollipops and little chocolates at us. mama said a polite, “thanks, we’re good on the candy!” kiddo asked maybe twice, *maybe,* for some “chocwatt,” was told no and ya know what?
    we had the best freakin’ time. so – candy? who needs it?

  15. Emily permalink
    October 29, 2010 5:44 pm

    I’ve traded “good” candy for the high fructose/artificial flavor and colored candy. That’s worked a few times. Everyone has a favorite candy, that they’d be willing to trade for a less favored one. I’ve also just rationed it and had hell for weeks until it was gone. I have a friend who takes a % of the candy profits from his kids. This amuses me no end, although the details of how he pulls this off are not clear.

    All that being said, I FINALLY learned this year, that if we make decorations, and read books, and make costumes and look at other people decorations and go to parties where the focus isn’t candy (think games, parades, Jack-o’-lanterns) then the trick or treating isn’t so important. Maybe that isn’t a great answer or sounds too simplistic, but I haven’t heard as much about trick or treating from the kiddos this year as last. I’m a little tired of hearing about decorations and being badgered about making a certain someone’s wolf costume just perfect, but… :>)

    ps – I tried with my eldest the “let ’em have it” method. I learned she has a cast iron stomach, and nothing else. I’d love to say her behavior stunk afterwards also, but to be truthful, she was herself. I’m the one who goes batty with yellow food dye.

  16. October 29, 2010 6:01 pm

    Since mine are still so small, I really don’t know what the long-term results of my style will be. I do allow them sweets for special occassions. My two year old gets no chocolate because the caffiene turns her already high energy body into a state of craziness, and a mama needs to sleep at some point. For Halloween, I do the Halloween Fairy–they chose 10 pieces of candy, and the Fairy turns the rest into a prize. But the sick truth is that I eat every last bit of what the Fairy takes away, or at least every last bit aside from the smarties, which are nasty.

  17. October 29, 2010 8:32 pm

    we tried the free-for-all approach last year; very tough for me, but it actually was interesting:

    this year, with the day after hallowe’en on a monday, not sure how we’ll approach it. but i’d rather have one day of gorging than two weeks of negotiating … good luck!

  18. October 29, 2010 9:12 pm

    Oh my gosh, you are so freakn’ funny girl! I so enjoy your blog, your are such a talented writer! My littles are only 2 and 4 and can really only go to about 5 houses. I get so bummbed becuase than I can’t eat their candy:( But then I remember I’m a big girl an can just go and buy the freakn’ stuff!!!


  19. October 29, 2010 9:49 pm

    Hmmm – I’ve been thinking about his ever since last Halloween which we totally avoided because I was too stressed over the candy bit. Isaac didn’t seem to care – in fact not that I think about it, it was his choice.

    We don’t buy commercial candy at all and so the only sugary stuff he gets are things we make at home: cookies, muffins etc. I’ve struggled with how to manage his intake of sugar. It makes him mental. However, rationing the crap out of it only makes the kids want more (remember as a kid being told you’d have enough when you didn’t feel like you had? Arg!) But giving him open access to it scares the crap out of me. I definitely don’t need to deal with the struggle for weeks so I think we’ll be giving him one full day (Sunday night to Monday night) to consume what he wants…and then get rid of the rest. (We’ve done this with cookies we’ve baked…and he always knows when to stop.) Talking about what an excess of sugar does to our bodies and letting the little ones figure this out on their own is great lesson for them – to recognize in their own bodies that too much sugar sucks.

  20. Caraway permalink
    October 29, 2010 10:36 pm

    Ha ha ha ha!! I love your description of what will “probably” happen with the candy: the lawyer-like rational arguments, the whining, the pestering, more pestering, the caving, the parents sneaking a sample. Why are these experiences so universal??

    I love everyone’s ideas for alternative approaches to this yearly challenge. Way to go, all you Mamas!

    Personally I think that as long as we don’t let them gorge themselves with reckless abandon, find some reasonable way to limit the sugar consumption to where we are individually as parents comfortable, and resume the healthy daily diet for the rest of the time, the kids’ll be fine. They’ll always love and want candy no matter what we do; as long as it doesn’t form a regular part of their diet I think no harm done.

    Post some pics of them in their costumes if you can! This yr I’m actually making the costumes for Noah and Fiona– we’ll see how they come out. Fiona: chicken. Noah: Scary Pumpkin-Head.

  21. October 29, 2010 10:40 pm

    Well, we are another family that has freely experimented, and have come from a less is more philosophy. We aren’t sugar eaters, our bodies have the B vitamins they need, and so the cravings just aren’t there. (Coffee, and me, ‘nother story!!)

    We have: taken all of the junk and tossed it and given child(ren) cash or a simple useful toy. We have: encouraged 10 pieces to be kept and thrown the rest out. We have bypassed Halloween altogether in favor of more interesting things to do, and we have now implemented more of a Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) tradition, which fits right in with harvest and Celtic ancestry for me. So last year, the kids dressed up for Samhain and we had fun with that. We live rurally, too, so when kids go T&T’ing they have to drive to town. This year we may go T&T’ing with a dear little friend, mostly because we won’t seee her for 4 months after that. Our town does Halloween right up, old character homes and funky displays, surprisingly low-budget and old fashioned-looking. In other words, no blow-ups from the Temple of Plastic usually! ;-)

    So this year we are back to designing on the fly, and my kids aren’t so sugar-saturated and dependant on getting that for rewards ( a problem for some kids that they soon feel deprived when candy is with-held) or parental involvement stand-ins, that we can easily fore-go it. In areas where self-regulation can occasionally be weak, I’m the mama duck. :-) Probably 5 pieces shall be kept and the rest will fill their shoes and boots outside for the Candy Witch (who has no teeth!) to take away.

    I love the reverse t&t’ing idea too. I’ve heard of that last year but not tried it…we generally only buy fair-trade chocolate, so that’s a whole other issue too. Halloween chocolate is obtained with so much harm :-(

  22. Chi-An permalink
    October 29, 2010 10:51 pm

    Hm, it hasn’t been a huge problem for us. The kids get a couple pieces on Halloween, we throw out the disgusting stuff they can’t really handle anyway (like Laffy Taffy and the really sticky stuff), and the rest goes into containers in the cabinet. They’re allowed one piece for dessert each day, provided they have eaten sufficient amounts of dinner (i.e., no skipping dinner and then eating dessert). We make it clear that candy is a treat and not a growing food.

    My kids don’t get a very big haul- the little one (3 years old) only hits about 8 houses and the big one (almost 7) goes to maybe 12, but what with one thing and another, the candy still tends to last until at least the first of the year, sometimes longer.

  23. October 30, 2010 12:56 am

    Oh, this is such a tricky area. My firstborn totally rations himself and eventually forgets about the leftover candy, and I usually throw it away after Christmas. I was so proud of my parenting skills with him, but truthfully, it has nothing to do with me. But then my second came along, and she craves sugar so much, and absolutely would eat the whole bag at once, which would completely overload her, and she wouldn’t get the connection. So I am still struggling with what to do.

    We got to visit Daddy at work at his new job today for the first time. They invited all the kids to come and trick or treat throughout the building. So we already have some loot to deal with. I’ve told the kids that they could keep half of what they get and trade the rest in to me for a toy or art supplies. I can’t eat it because of the corn syrup, so it doesn’t tempt me as much as it used to. We eat healthy, crunchy granola diets most of the time, so I figure some candy on special occasions isn’t going to harm them, as long as we can all moderate the consumption without too many tantrums from child #2.

    I really hate Halloween now that I am an adult, and truly struggle with the whole “holiday”. It is so magical to the kids, though, and I feel bad for being such a scrooge. Wish I knew some better answers.

  24. October 30, 2010 9:09 am

    I’ve been thinking about this too. Last year after a few days Theo didn’t seem to care about the candy anymore and I threw it away. This year I think it’s going to be harder. He crazy for it, and he doesn’t forget as easily. And, he’s smart enough to know if his loot went from aplenty to five or six pieces~so I can’t pull that one on him.

    We’ll see…

    Love that Col switched up his costume for Rose. Now that’s sweet!

  25. October 30, 2010 11:27 am

    Thank you for going wild over the donut crumbs. I honestly don’t think I can tell you how much relief this provided me. You eat such beautiful food and food is such a celebration at your home and… well… it’s just nice to know you go a little wonky for the crappy stuff every now and again. It makes me think even more that the way I really want to eat is even more available.

  26. October 30, 2010 1:53 pm

    I love everything about this post! Especially that first paragraph. You are amazing.
    We have given up the fight. They trade, they save, they eat (probably far far too much).
    Love reading your comments to this post. Yet….I have nothing new or wise to offer.

  27. October 30, 2010 2:06 pm

    “Harvard Law School negotiations…” SO funny!

    We’ve only had that one bit of cream cheese frosting on the first birthday, so not there yet with the halloween candy. But I love the ideas of the Good Switch Witch and the like. I’m not sure what I’ll do. I have fond memories of Halloween, but I would love it if my girl could enter adulthood without having to eat Reeses peanut butter cups every October, like her mother : )

  28. November 1, 2010 11:00 pm

    We do the Halloween Fairy (but the kids know it’s me — we’ve never thought it important that our kids believe that certain gift-bestowing entities are REAL people. Rather, it’s a game we play together).

    The kids can eat some candy that night, and then they put it by the door and get NEW organic, non-gmo candy the Halloween fairy buys at the coop :) and also usually a little toy. This year, they got a jacob’s ladder toy and a little music box.

    We went trick-or-treating just in our small cohousing community (24 units) this year, and the kids acquired a fair-sized stash that wasn’t insane and was also very slight on the food-dye, GMO stuff. I took out that stuff for the Halloween Fairy and they ate all the candy/fruit leather/juice boxes they had hauled in.

    My youngest has a harder time eating anything BUT candy if it’s available while my older son tempers himself with some protein here and there. But I always offer nutritious food and tried to get them to eat before going out.

    My main thing isn’t so much keeping them from eating sweets as it is keeping the truly unhealthy non-whole foods type of crap out of their bodies. So it works for us to trade that stuff in and then not have to worry so much about controlling intake.

  29. November 3, 2010 3:54 pm

    Oh, where have I been? I noticed a new post and then realized I had missed the last three. Ah, well, I love a little blog binge. As far as Halloween-candy bingeing goes: we have a great, large bag full of Halloween candy sitting, forgotten on our dining room table. We did give our daughter the option of trading in her candy for something different, but she assured us that she wanted her candy. And, there it languishes on the table.

  30. November 3, 2010 3:55 pm

    (Perhaps I should note that I wrote the above comment while eating a good deal of butter pecan ice cream.)


  1. November first « 6512 and growing

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s