There’s lots of advice out there to fill your kids up on healthy food before they go trick-or-treating.

I say, “DON”T DO IT.”

Really. I’m not joking. And I’m not nuts.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feed your kids before they hit the town. And I’m not even saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea for that food to be healthy.


The idea that children who are full won’t eat their Halloween candy is a fantasy.

I’ll admit that children who head out into the night with a full tummy will be less likely to eat as much candy as their hungry brethren. But the difference we’re talking about is peanuts (chocolate-covered, but peanuts nonetheless).

So what if you reduce your kids’ intake from 150,000 pieces to only 100,000? There’s a larger habits message at stake here.

Do you want your children to learn that it’s normal to eat their dessert on a full stomach? Or (hint: here comes the correct answer!) would you prefer they learn to save room for dessert?

You may have noticed that I stopped calling the Halloween haul candy and started calling it dessert. That was intentional. If you feed your kids dinner and then send them out trick-or-treating you are treating the candy as dessert. So you might as well teach your kids whatever lesson is appropriate for handling any, and all, desserts.

And “save room for dessert” is the right lesson. Anything else is teaching your kids to overeat. Read Dessert: How I Love Thee.

Asking kids if they’re hungry before you send them out to collect their candy cache is essentially daring them to lie.

Why? They want to get the goods and will say/do whatever it takes. Read The Lying Zone

So here’s what I recommend:

  • Give your kids a small meal if they’re trick-or-treating after their usual mealtime and a small snack if they’re trick-or-treating after snacktime.
  • Remind your children to stay in touch with their tummies.
  • Reassure your children that they can save candy for later because you’re not taking it away. Read The How-to-Control-Your-Kids’-Candy Consumption Con for why it’s so important that you let your kids keep their candy.
  • Have fun.

Most people think the third principle of healthy eating–moderation– means portion size. And it does. Sort of.

Moderation really means only eating when you’re hungry. But by extension it means:

  • Stopping eating when you’re full.
  • Not eating because you’re bored, sad, or lonely. Or because it’s a HOLIDAY!

Of course, everyone eats when they’re not hungry, especially on holidays. But learning how to do it in a sane way is a skill that takes some time to learn. And there’s no better time than tomorrow–Halloween–to start teaching your kids how to eat right for a lifetime of holiday eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~