Halloween makes a lot of dietitians cringe. But what if Halloween could help kids learn to explore new foods? Really, I’m not joking.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Dietitians know a lot about Halloween. So forgive me for throwing something out there that I suspect most dietitians haven’t really considered. This is what I think Dietitians need to know. Parents can use Halloween to teach kids to explore new foods.
It’s no secret that, when it comes to Halloween, parents feel excited — Yay, dressing my child up is lots of fun! — and anxious — How can I control all that sugar?
Dietitians: This year do something different. Halloween can help parents and kids catch the habitude! It’s counterintuitive, so stick with me, but it’s all about teaching the right mindset.
Teaching kids to eat a variety of foods is one of the biggest problems parents have. Halloween is all about variety. Not the kind of variety most parents are after but Halloween can be a useful tool.
It’s easy to lump all candy together into one category. But treating all candy as “candy” is a missed opportunity. There’s actually a ton of diversity hidden in the Halloween haul. Exploring all that diversity is fun and learning that exploring new foods is fun is the key to teaching kids to explore new foods in general.
Halloween isn’t just about candy corn. It’s about Butterfingers, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, M&Ms, Twix, Skittles, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Lifesavers, Starbursts…
- Each year, American’s purchase 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween, according to Foodbeast.com.
- 4% of all candy is consumed on just one day, USA Today reports.
So, yes, there’s a lot to worry about. But there’s also a fantastic opportunity to eliminate a problem.
Halloween is full of exiting, new tastes and textures. And because it’s a ghoulish holiday, Halloween is full of strange looking foods too. Most kids are eager to try them all. Harness the enthusiasm.
Adapt the Tasting Tool that appears at the bottom of this post to use with Halloween. (You can even download this one.)
Teaching kids to be adventurous tasters starts by encouraging an adventurous mindset.
A child who learns to enthusiastically embrace new sweets and treats will start to embrace other new foods.
By the way, in addition to variety, the other two habits that translate nutrition into behavior are Proportion and Moderation. The Halloween Habits Lessons for these habits are:
- Proportion Proportion is the habit of eating the healthiest foods more frequently than everything else. There’s going to be a lot of candy, cupcakes and other treats on Monday so we’re going to have a few days treat-free before and after.
- Moderation Moderation is the habit of eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, and not eating because you’re bored, sad or lonely. It’s really easy to overeat when there are so many treats around. That’s why it’s important to pay special attention to your tummy.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~