Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Instead of Throwing Away Halloween Candy, Do This

Every year in the beginning of November, I see social media posts from people who share that they are throwing their kids' Halloween candy into the trash. I get it: nobody wants to deal with a sugared-up kid for days on end. When you add in the fact that candy consumption isn't healthy, these photographs of candy sitting in the trash seem perfectly justified. However, there are some problems with this approach to Halloween candy. 

When we sneakily dump our child's candy into the trash, we are promoting the "throwaway culture"-literally. 

While we cannot really claim that the pieces of sugar known as Halloween candy are food, our societal normalization of trashing these consumables feeds into the wider attitude of wastefulness (Pope Francis speaks on this "culture of waste" here). Furthermore, casting handfuls of Halloween candy into the trash can does not teach our children any good lessons. 

But if I don't throw away my child's Halloween candy, won't I be destined to experience children on sugar overload? 

Not necessarily. YOU are the parent. YOU can guide your child to learn how to make choices. YOU can take positive steps to end the "culture of waste" that we live in. And you  can do all these things without experiencing a post-Halloween sugar crash or trashing all the candy. 

Instead of throwing away Halloween candy, here's what we can do: 

1. Set limits. While your child may claim ownership of the candy that he or she obtained by winning games at a carnival or by charming your sweet neighbors, you as the parent can set limits to how much candy is being consumed. Communicate with your child about how many pieces in a day or a week he or she will be allowed to eat. This allows your child to make the decision of prioritizing which piece of candy he or she would like to eat. It also teaches your child delayed gratification, because he or she won't be able to binge eat candy endlessly.

2. Teach your child how to ration candy. There is no rule stating that Halloween candy must be consumed within the first week of November. In fact, most candy can last for quite a while. Hershey even states that "Most confectionery products are at their best flavor for one year after manufacture" (this article does note that products with nuts may go rancid after a year, so eat that Snickers bar first!). Teach your child learn how to allot candy so that his or her pile of Halloween candy will last several weeks or months. 

3. Help your child send candy to the troops fighting overseas. Teach your child the value of gratitude and "paying it forward" by guiding him or her to choose pieces of candy to donate, and by sending it in. Soldier's Angels and Operation Gratitude are two organizations that will happily receive your leftover Halloween candy and give it to the men and women who are fighting for our country. 

Additionally, the "candy season" of Halloween and Christmas is a great time to learn about the ethics involved in the chocolate industry (here's a great post about it). Perhaps we can all start to focus on the "less is more" approach, and instead of stockpiling tons of mainstream candy that was not made ethically, we can give our money to ethical companies-even if this means we have less to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Also, we can hand out fruit (bananas and cutie oranges come to mind-you can even draw faces on them beforehand!) or participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project and hand out non-food items! 

Halloween candy doesn't have to create an occasion of overindulgence, and it doesn't need to be an excuse to join the normalized "culture of waste." Your child's Halloween candy can be more than a tasty treat-it can become a teaching tool about moderation, self-mastery, and generosity. 


  1. My parents never bought candy when we were growing up, so Christmas candy and candy we picked up at parades were deeply prized! I have so many fond memories of sitting in a circle on the floor after a parade, trading candy with various siblings so that we all ended up with the best deals. I'm sure my parents placed limits on how much we were allowed to eat and when we were allowed to have access to candy...but I can't quite imagine parents throwing away candy that people spent money to buy! Sure, maybe candy doesn't have a ton of value, but it's a nice little treat once in a while. I wouldn't mind a few pieces of candy corn myself if they were sold in this country...haha!

    1. We never buy it, either, so it's honestly a once-a-year treat for my kids. I find it weird that people throw it away, too. I mean, how do they not just eat it themselves? That's willpower. When we have too much candy I just stash some of it in a box in the closet, and we use it a few months later when a special occasion rolls around or we need a few stocking stuffers or party favors.

  2. We don't celebrate Halloween, so this isn't an issue for us. However, I see this all the time and I've never understood why parents encourage their kids to trick-or-treat and then toss out the candy. I LOVE these alternatives!

    1. I'm glad you like these alternatives! I don't get it either-if parents do not want their kids to have bucketfuls of candy, then why do they allow their kids to trick-or-treat? At the very least, parents could drastically limit how many houses or events their kids go to (as someone who has never been door-to-door trick or treating, I can say with certainty that it's 100% possible to have a happy childhood without gathering tons of candy from many houses).