Let your kids eat chocolate this Halloween. Let yourself eat chocolate this Halloween.
That’s right, I’m a nutritionist and I’m advocating eating chocolate.
Let me explain.
The tempting thing to do on Halloween would be to micromanage your kids’ consumption of chocolate and sweets, to give them rules about when and what they’re allowed to eat. It’s tempting to believe this will make them healthier. Unfortunately, it probably won’t.
When parents try and restrict their children from eating certain foods by banning them or making them seem off-limits, they retaliate and rebel. The same thing happens when you force them to eat something they don’t want to eat. Kids and adults alike can become obsessed with foods that they’re not allowed to eat and end up craving these foods because they’re not allowed. Overall, this micromanaging can then lead to unhealthy attitudes around food (i.e. this is a bad food so if I eat it I am a bad person), and potentially leads to disordered eating patterns and even eating disorders. Fear of food is a symptom of disordered eating.
Even if you don’t have kids all these things can still be applied to yourself. How you talk about food to others and yourself matters. It affects how you and those around you perceive food and themselves. Moralising food and restricting intake can lead to binge-restrict type behaviour: you deprive yourself of something, tell yourself you’re not allowed it, and then a few days/weeks later you go all-out and go nuts for that food, overeating, and feeling guilty, so you restrict it again. By making the food off-limits you’ve given it power over you. It’s a vicious cycle that can be broken by simply not making foods off-limits. For yourself or your kids.
Equally, I wouldn’t recommend telling kids “You can only have your chocolate/sweets once you eat your vegetables”, because it turns the vegetables into the chore and the chocolate or sweets into something more desirable because you have to earn it. Why not simply replace it with “We’re going to have dinner first and then sweets afterwards if you want them”. Or arrange to go trick-or-treating after dinner to avoid falling to that trap in the first place. Ask them about their costumes, what their friends are doing, don’t just make it about the food.
I would even suggest eating some chocolate together to model what a healthy relationship with food looks like, and if they ask why you stop, don’t say “I’m being good”, say: “I’m full, so I don’t want any more”. That way you avoid attaching morals to food.
Have a conversation about it instead of judging them. Maybe ask: “how did that make you feel?” “would you do it again or would you do it differently? Why?” Hey, you could even ask yourself these questions instead of judging yourself about what you’ve eaten.
So this Halloween, let your kids eat chocolate. Let yourself eat chocolate. And don’t judge them or yourself for it. Trust your body. Trust your kids’ bodies.