It’s OK. Limiting candy won’t ruin childhood.

Christina Le Beau is a journalist and blogger who writes about raising food-literate children at Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat. Her goal with Spoonfed (and its companion Facebook page) is to raise awareness of our food system, make kids part of the conversation and, importantly, encourage people to rethink their assumptions about kids and food.

Clementine Jack o' Lanterns

Clementine Jack o’ Lanterns make for a fun Halloween party treat

My almost 9-year-old trick-or-treats. She roams the neighborhood with friends. She collects candy. She eats a couple pieces. But after the fun is done, we have another Halloween tradition: Divide and conquer. Anything with artificial colors, fake sweeteners, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and chemical preservatives gets tossed. Right in the garbage. (Or saved for gingerbread houses.) What’s left (and there’s not much) goes in a candy jar. And that’s often the last we see of it. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.

When Tess was in preschool, and we visited just a few neighbors’ houses, we’d let her pick a piece, dump the rest and call it a night. Now she helps me sort. We talk about why the ingredients are bad, how they affect our bodies, and how there are better (and tastier) alternatives anyway. We do the same with birthday-party goody bags.

Some people rely on Great Pumpkins and Halloween Fairies and Switch Witches and other magical creatures that come in the night and swap candy for toys. But I’d rather have Tess involved in the process than avoid the conversation by letting some nighttime sprite do the deed. I want her to understand why we make the food choices we do. I want her to know that we can participate in cultural experiences like Halloween or state fairs or amusement parks without the obligatory bad food. I want her to know that the tired phrase “everything in moderation” is meaningless in a world of ingredients that shouldn’t be consumed at all.

Kids can enjoy Halloween without stuffing their faces or making it all about the candy. Their childhood won’t be ruined. They won’t turn all binge-y and weird and scarf every multicolored sugar nugget the minute they get the chance. Really. They won’t. That’s a myth.

What if Tess wants to eat something we’ve put in the toss pile? We let her. Because the surest way to get a kid to appreciate real food is to let her taste the opposite. The only chemical candy that has ever survived this test is Smarties, which I give a pass for food dye because they’re so pastel I figure it can’t be that much. And she eats, what, like a roll a year?

And what about the candy we toss? Isn’t that wasteful? Shouldn’t we just skip trick-or-treating altogether? Yes, it is. And no, we shouldn’t. Childhood is short, and I’m not going to deprive my daughter of this fun tradition with her friends. We don’t canvass the entire town or collect a huge haul. And we not only use some candy for gingerbread houses — we’ve also done candy experiments. But, in the end, if it’s a choice between trash in the can or trash in her body, well, there’s no question for me. (Which is also, BTW, why we won’t donate candy to food pantries.)

Now. Wait. Listen. Someone, somewhere, is saying some variation of this: “Sheesh. It’s Halloween. It’s one day a year. Lighten up and let the kids have their candy, already!”

But, see, that’s the problem. It’s not just one day a year. It’s Halloween night and class parties and community events and then the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day and Easter and birthday parties and swimming class and soccer games and the bank and the shoe store and restaurants with kid menus and the grandparents’ house and anyplace else kids set foot, including, of course, school. The sugar culture is so strong, the highly processed foodstuffs so epidemic, that we no longer have the luxury of viewing these things in isolation. It’s not just a few Halloween treats or one blue cupcake. It’s a crushing pile of chemical-laden pseudo food. And at some point we just have to make it stop.

So yes, I say boo.

And what say you? How do you handle Halloween at your house?

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When my son was small, the candy would just disappear. I suppose it should have been a more educational process, but so be it. Now that he’s 13 I have less control. The good news is that he really only likes dark chocolate! Something worked somewhere… Now, I only have to worry about myself.

Destiney Yates
Destiney Yates

I am guilty of the candy fairy deal. sort of my kids get some candy the night of and then we dump all the candy together and get rid of about half honestly because my kids know that candy is mostly all junk then we stash all the candy in a bad and it is alot with 4 kids. then every now and then i go threw n get rid of a tun of it in small doses here n there so they really wont notice its evaporating quicker than they are eating it. Also we are lucky and live in a ridiculously small town and we started a “healthy treat” program at school and we send out healthy alternative lists from school I was shocked to see just how many of these suggestions showed up in the candy bags! Things like snacks instead of candy. which in my opinion… Read more »


We let him eat almost whatever he wants while we are trick or treating. We let him pick 5 pieces of candy when we get home. We give him $ for the rest (10 bucks or so).

And I take the rest to work.

Skylor @sproutlifestyle

“trash in the can or trash in her body” – right? It’s not where the candy goes that makes it wasteful – the creation of the candy is where the waste happens. If instead of taking the energy to create that candy, we used that energy to transport fruit and veggies to places that never get these luxuries, that would be a far wiser way to expend energy. So for you to throw the candy away? That’s simply just doing a little right for the mounds (no pun intended) of wrong that have already been done. Right on my friend!


Very well written. I am happy to share this with my readers!