Halloween is here! Here's why teaching your kids to restrict won’t lead to long-term healthy choices.
Many parents in our Pongo Power community have been asking questions about the incoming hoard of candy, children will be bringing into their homes, and consuming for weeks to come. “Do we ration the candy?” “Perhaps limit how much they can have on Halloween night?” “Should we take it away from them, and store it out of reach?” These questions are just a sampling of the anxiety, circulating around children being allowed to enjoy a yearly tradition; where, just once, they are given freedom and permission to make their own choices surrounding treats and food.
It’s extremely easy to let our “adult” thinking interfere with their childlike-drive to consume massive amounts of candy. Isn’t it unhealthy, we may wonder, for a kid to inhale that much sugar, over the course of a few short days, or, in the case of the more regimited child, an entire week? Isn’t this a good opportunity to teach kids about the danger of too much sugar; to show them that they can have treats, in moderation; to set them up for living a healthy lifestyle later on? What about hyperactivity caused by sugar? What if they make themselves sick?
Let’s break a few of these concerns down. For one, there is no hard evidence that eating too much sugar causes hyperactivity in children. In 1995, pediatrician Mark Wolraich conducted a review of 23 studies they involved over 400 children. Sugar was not shown to impact cognition or behavior.
What about immediate physical health? Isn’t it very bad for someone to eat so much sugar, in one sitting? Short answer: yes. Long answer? When we learn, especially at a young age, that certain foods are “bad” or need to be restricted, it sets us up psychologically for disordered eating behavior in the future. Sometimes, when one learns to restrict, they then end up learning to binge. This is just one of the reasons most experts believe dieting in children is risky behavior.
In fact, when we “allow” ourselves to eat a certain type of food regularly, including sweets, the overall calorie consumption of that food decreases. So in theory, letting your kids eat that much candy in one night could actually cause them to eat less candy throughout the rest of the year.
It’s ultra-important we don’t pass on our own anxieties about food to our children, and just let them be kids. Many adults, who go on adult diets subscribe to the notion of a “cheat meal,” or, a diet break, where they eat whatever “bad foods” they want, one day of the week, and then resume their consumption of only “good foods” for the remaining days of the week. However, most Registered Dieticians (RD) advise against this good/bad food binary, as it is promotes disordered behavior. Unfortunately, societal conditioning has reinforced the good/bad binary, and many RDs are just working to unpack and undo the notion that some foods are bad, and some are good. Why plant that seed in children’s minds so young?
Additionally, it’s important to allow our children to have some control over the things they eat, so that they can start listening to and recognizing their own hunger cues. Too, so that they learn responsibility, when rationing out the candy for themselves to make it “last”... and responsibility when eating it all in one night, that it may give them a tummy ache!
So, let your kids eat their candy! One night won’t undo all the years of healthy options you’re giving them. Who knows, maybe they’ll appreciate your preferred options more!
And if you want to get your kids moving, bring them to Pongo Power. Our personal trainers work with children of all ages. We teach them that exercise is fun, (not punitive, never boring) and help them learn how to connect to their bodies from a young age.