Halloween: Let Them Eat Candy—But How Much?

Halloween: A Candy Celebration

Halloween ranks high as far as favorite holidays for children go. Not only do children get to put on fun costumes, but they also get to collect lots of candy.

As fun as Halloween can be for children, it can be a challenge for parents. As a parent, it can be difficult to keep the holiday fun, while making sure that your child does not overindulge in candy. Most experts agree that the first step is setting guidelines and expectations in advance of the special night.

A Candy Plan

After trick-or-treating, have your children spread their candy on a table or the floor. You can try one of these 4 approaches:

  • Let your child pick 10 favorite pieces to keep. Donate the rest of the candy to a senior citizen center, shelter, or some other charitable organization.
  • Let your child trade their candy for a prize such as a toy, book, or a fun event.
  • Let your child pick out 2-3 pieces of candy to have each day. Have them eat something healthy before they eat the candy.
  • Let your child pick a set amount of candy for the week. Once the week's allotment is gone, do not let your child fish back in the bag for more.

Or, develop a system that works well in your home. Whichever approach you choose, make sure you let your child know what the plan is before the big night. And if it works well, stick with it every year.

Some Additional Tips

Halloween does not have to scare off good nutrition habits. It just takes a little bit of planning and some dedication on your part. To help Halloween be a more healthful time, follow these tips:

  • Serve kids a healthy dinner before trick-or-treating. Make sure the meal includes food that they like. This way, they will be full and may be less tempted to indulge in candy.
  • Offer trick-or-treaters something other than candy. Although it is tempting to give a piece of fruit, like an apple, this is not a good idea. Fruit is difficult for a parent to check for tampering. Instead, give them colorful pencils, stickers, or large erasers. Having non-candy options also provides choices for children who may have food allergies.
  • Set guidelines about how much candy your children can have. Consider limiting the number of houses they go to, or how much time they can spend in a particular place. Have a set number of days that candy can remain in the house before it gets thrown out.
  • Children should not snack while they are trick-or-treating. Make sure your children understand that you need to check all the treats at home before any are eaten.
  • Watch for signs of tampering. These include small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages.
  • Parents of young children should get rid of choking hazards. These include gum, peanuts, hard candies, and small toys.
  • If your child has food allergies, check that the candy he or she has collected does not contain allergens.

One additional candy tip: Try not to reward your child's good behavior with candy or punish bad behavior by withholding candy. Use non-candy things, like a trip to the park or new crayons, to acknowledge good behavior.


Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


Dietitians of Canada


Halloween safety tips. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at:
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Updated October 7, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2017.
Healthy Halloween habits: Tips from parents. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated November 2015. Accessed March 29, 2017.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 3/16/2015

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