Parents should talk to their kids before Halloween about how (and when) their haul will be distributed, says Nicole Silber, a registered dietician and pediatric nutritionist at Middleberg Nutrition in New York. “Saying ‘no’ while they’re counting their loot at the end of the night is an invitation for tears,” she says.
Castle suggests that children wait until they get home to nosh (so you can give their stash a once-over). But, if you can’t keep them away from the candy while they’re trick or treating, you can still set guidelines. “Have kids ask first before they eat any candy,” Castle says. “And for older kids, give them a limit.”
Speaking of limits, Castle advises that toddlers and preschoolers receive one piece of candy on Halloween and one piece a day for a few days afterward. “Children this age are still developing taste preferences,” she says. “Research tells us that exposure to sweets early in life begets a sweet preference later.”
As for older kids? Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, recommends an age-based approach. Here’s how it works: multiply a child’s age by one or two to determine a sum to be enjoyed during Halloween night. Example: A 6-year-old could enjoy up to 12 pieces. Swanson says kids will usually self-regulate and call it quits before ever reaching the max amount.
In the days following Halloween, Swanson recommends limiting consumption to three pieces per day for three days and then nix leftovers.