Home / Holidays / Halloween Just let your kids eat all the Halloween candy A nutritionist explains why it's okay for kids to eat candy. By Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Updated October 17, 2022 Twenty20 In This Article Candy isn't inherently bad—but fear and shame are Why it's OK for kids to eat all the Halloween candy How to help kids eat candy in a healthy way Halloween is just around the corner, and if your kids are anything like mine, they’ve already had exposure to a higher-than-usual influx of candy. And you know the kids are here for it. If your child was already preoccupied with candy, holidays like Halloween may seem to make their fixation on candy even worse. Or if you have a stash of Halloween candy or treats in your home, your kids may seem obsessed with wanting to eat them. But there’s good news: You don’t have to withhold candy from your kids. Believe it or not, raising healthy children involves giving them candy. Here’s why. Candy isn’t inherently bad—but fear and shame are If your kids were constantly demanding you feed them broccoli, the desire for a particular kind of food might feel like a non-issue, am I right? But because the thing that your kids may be asking for is a food demonized as less than “healthy” and blamed as the culprit for all kinds of diseases and behavioral problems, it feels unsafe. Candy may feel like something you need to rigidly control access to, but this approach can backfire. Have you ever hidden something from your kids, only to find they seem to become more preoccupied with it? We are naturally drawn to the very things that we’re told we can’t have. So telling your children that candy is off-limits can actually make them feel more obsessive about having it. Related: 7 ways to help your kids form a healthy relationship with food Adding a layer to this is the language that is often used about candy. It’s not uncommon for us to describe foods in polarizing terms, such as good vs. bad, or healthy vs. unhealthy. Even when used with good intentions, this language creates a moralistic association with food that kids can internalize at an early age. You may tell your children that candy isn’t healthy for them and therefore, they shouldn’t eat it. Or your children may hear that candy is “bad” or “terrible” for their bodies. Again, language like this is often used with good intentions and with the belief that this will in fact deter kids from eating candy and sweets. Related: I’m going to let my teens trick or treat as long as they want to However, what this actually teaches kids is that they are bad for wanting or eating candy (not the candy itself). Kids don’t view food in the same way that we do as adults, nor do they make food decisions based on arbitrary standards of “healthy vs. unhealthy.” All they know is what tastes good to them and what feels safe. Food can slowly but surely become unsafe when they begin learning that certain foods are “bad” for them. The bottom line: Restrictive control tactics around candy, along with polarizing language about candy, can not only cause children to feel more preoccupied with candy, but it can create fear, guilt and shame for wanting and eating these foods. Why it’s OK for kids to eat all the Halloween candy Remember that your kids are born with innate programming that helps them self-regulate the foods and amounts they need to grow at a rate that is right for them. That’s right—your child is born as a natural intuitive eater, and by taking a neutral approach and stance to candy, you can help preserve their innate abilities to regulate all foods, including candy. Good health and nutrition goes far beyond the nutritive qualities of the foods themselves. It involves finding satisfaction and pleasure in food and being able to respond to and respect your body’s hunger and fullness signals. Related: It’s true: McDonald’s old-school Halloween buckets are back! When kids are presented with restrictive feeding tactics, this will interfere with their natural ability to self-regulate and increase their obsessiveness and preoccupation with these foods. You can help your child develop a healthy relationship with food by having regular and consistent opportunities to eat sweets. The goal is not to avoid giving them candy. Rather, we want to help them have a healthy, non-obsessive relationship with candy. We want them to be able to eat and enjoy candy when the opportunity arises in an amount that feels best for them… and then move on with their lives! How to help kids eat candy in a healthy way 1. Allow regular access to candy Your child actually needs to have regular access to candy with meals and snacks without any stipulations or rules attached in order to develop their own self-regulated approach to eating sweets. Your child may eat the candy first then move on to other foods, or vice versa. You don’t need to be the food police. You can decide how many pieces your child can have, but let your child pick their candies out and decide at what point during the meal to eat them and how much of the candy they want to eat. The key here is no stipulations, meaning, your child should be allowed to eat their candy with the meal, not if the meal has been eaten, or if a certain number of bites of vegetables or food have been eaten. Related: No need to hide the Halloween candy—here’s what to do instead 2. Allow periods of unrestricted access to candy In addition to regular access to candy with meals or snacks, your kids may also need periods of unrestricted access to candy. This is where you can give opportunities where they have unlimited access to candy or sweets. What might this look like? My recommendation is to allow this within a structured snack time. (I still strongly recommend having regular meal and snack times for your child.) This does not mean candy should just be a free-for-all, or that your child can eat candy whenever they want throughout the day. Pick a snack time, such as an afternoon snack where your child can have unrestricted access to a bowl of candy or another dessert-type food. Let them have access to their candy bag or a bowl of candy along with one to two other food components, such as a glass of milk and veggies or fruit. Let your kids pick out how many pieces of candy they want to eat without any guidance from you. Other times you can allow your kids these times of unrestricted access to candy might include holidays, such as Halloween night. 3. Have boundaries around candy Kids still need healthy boundaries around candy, just as they do around food in general. These boundaries might include where candy will be kept and when it can be accessed. Candy should be in a place that your child can both see and access. If candy is out of reach or out of sight, they will likely become more preoccupied with it. In the same way, your kids may feel obsessive about their candy if they don’t know when they will be allowed to have it. This is why it’s important to communicate with your kids about when they will be allowed to eat their candy. Make sure you and your kids are on the same page about when they can access their candy bag. If they know they will be able to have some of their candy with their meals, this can help decrease their preoccupation with eating candy. For example, if they’re asking for candy between meals and snacks, you can let them know that a time to eat candy is coming up soon. Offer your kids gentle reminders for adhering to and holding boundaries established around candy. 4. Create positive experiences around candy More than anything, kids learn about food and eating through their environment and from their caregivers. If your kids are picking up on negative language or cues about candy being “dangerous” or “bad,” they won’t feel safe to enjoy their candy. Be aware of the language you’re using to describe candy, and be cautious about your own attitudes and behaviors. Create a positive (or at least neutral) environment for your child around candy—let them see you enjoying candy in a relaxed, neutral setting. Talk to your kids about their favorite candies, why they enjoy them, or even the types of candies you enjoy eating. If your child can see you enjoy some candy alongside them, this will help reassure them that they’re not “bad” for liking candy. 5. Check your own issues about candy Do you feel anxious or nervous about your child eating candy? Where might these fears be coming from? Understanding your own history and past experiences can help create awareness around your own feelings that may be triggered when your child is eating candy. Fear of sugar often goes hand in hand with fear about being in a larger body (or growing into a larger body). Many parents may fear the potential ramifications of their children eating too much candy or sugar, including worries about kids being in a larger body. Having a history of being in a larger body yourself or having a child that may already be in a larger body can put you on high alert about candy. Be aware that your kids pick up cues from you about eating candy—just like everything else—and those cues might create stress or anxiety for your child around the act of eating candy. A note from Motherly Remember that all foods, including candy, are an important part of creating memories and enjoying life together. Don’t let short-sightedness or fear-mongering tactics around candy or sugar rob you—or your children—of enjoyment. A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog. It has been updated and edited for length.