The Sugar Monsters (otherwise known as my kids overloaded on the sweet stuff)—that’s what I’m afraid of on Halloween. They get moody, act crazier than normal and then crash…hard. It’s as if they are addicts—seriously.

So, what’s a parent to do? Cut them off cold turkey? We’ve all heard about those kids who hide candy under their beds because they’re never allowed sweets. Giving them free reign over the candy bag doesn’t seem like a great strategy either–have you met the sugar monster yet?

I’m focusing on children here, but of course, this isn’t only a pint-sized problem. I have to admit that I’m not immune to the temptation: When that Twix bar taunts me with its mere presence, sitting on the counter with the rest of the leftover candy, it’s difficult not to succumb. And don’t even get me started on that big bag o’ candy in the girls’ room that seems to whisper my name whenever I’m near it.

So how do we strike a balance between enjoying enough candy to ward off feelings of deprivation without having to face down the scary sugar monster? When it comes to the kids, I like to refer to the “Golden Rule” of parenting, as presented in Ellyn Satter’s book, How to Get Your Kids to Eat, But Not Too Much: Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented. Children are responsible for how much or even whether they eat.

What does that mean in a practical sense? We keep candy to a minimum in our house throughout the year. It’s something they’re exposed to outside of the home—at birthday parties and of course, Halloween. Instead, we give them lots of natural sweet treats, which helps broaden their palate and mindset on what constitutes a “sweet.”

Such sweets include:
– Fresh fruits (my daughter has said, “Cherry candy tastes nothing like a real cherry!”)
– Fig or ginger cookies
– Animal crackers
– Raisins and dried cranberries
– Dark chocolate covered raisins
– Dark chocolate and peanut butter
– Homemade cookies (whereby we control the ingredients)

Try not to judge us here, but on the day of Halloween, we let the kids eat essentially what they want, with perhaps a cue or two from us if it looks like they’re not slowing, when it’s obvious that they should. They’re pretty good about stopping though, especially because they’re not used to eating like this. And for the next two days, they’ll have a piece (or two) of candy as their sweet at dessert time. Then we “relocate” the candy (out of sight, out of mind) and see if they ask for it. At the end of the week, the requests are almost nil, so we throw it away.

This removal trick works for adults, too. While my husband and I are pretty strong-willed when it comes to sweets (myself probably more so than my husband), it’s always helpful for it to be out of arm’s reach. It’s also a huge help that our supply of snacks for trick-or-treaters never includes our favorite candy. We’re strong, but not that strong! 🙂

Some families have put their trick-or-treat booty (as well as their leftover candy) out for the “Halloween Fairy,” who replaces it with a present, like a small ThinkFun game, which is a clever idea. Of course, every child is different and every family is different. Just remember to celebrate the holiday with no guilt—make it about the act of dressing up, going out in your neighborhood and visiting neighbors, and less about the actual candy.