A Nutritionist’s Advice on How to approach Valentine’s Day Candy

As a dietitian who works with families with littles, I witness families struggling with how to approach desserts and candy a lot. How do you navigate this on a normal day, let alone on a holiday when candy is the main attraction for kids (like Valentine’s Day!)?

How we grew up and the way sweets are viewed in our society influences how we respond around these foods—usually in a negative or restrictive way. But what if there was another way?

Here are 3 new approaches to candy this Valentine’s Day with your kiddos. 

1: “All your Valentine’s Day candy is going into this bowl. I won’t throw any of it away.”

Kids can get a lot of candy around holidays. It can be a little unsettling to see that much candy in one spot and it’s tempting to throw out the candy after a few days without letting your kid know. Seems like a logical plan, right?! In reality, this actually sends some mixed messages to our kids. It tells them that perhaps this candy is something they shouldn’t be having or that they’re bad for eating it (it isn’t and they’re not!). It also can lead to distrust between your child and you. They don’t know what else you may be hiding from them.

Instead of throwing out the candy, reassure them that the candy will still be there for them. It helps neutralize sweets and turns candy into a non-issue. From my experience, the kids who don’t get candy at home are the ones who overeat on it when they’re at friends’ houses or at grandparents’. When you don’t make it into a big deal, your kids don’t either. If you want to clean up a bit, include your kiddos. Ask them if they want to share any of their candy with others or if they’d like to get rid of some of the candy they don’t like as much.

2: “Yes, we can bring out your candy along with our dinner tonight.”

When your kid asks for some candy during the day, you still get to decide whether or not that time is a good time. If it isn’t, try to turn your no into a yes! Say yes to when they can have it. It may not necessarily be at that moment, but kids then hear that the candy is allowed and that they will get it.

Bringing it out during dinner is also another way to help make the candy feel more neutral. Having it right alongside their carrots puts everything on the same playing field. You may be surprised at how well they actually eat the other foods when there’s no pressure.

This approach to serving candy also prevents you from using it as a bribe or reward. You said yes to candy at dinner regardless of how much they ate at dinner. 

3: “We’re having your Valentine’s Day candy with your snack today. I’ll let you decide how much your body is telling you it needs.”

How often do we portion out one or two pieces of candy for our kids and then tell them they don’t get anymore? We have their best interest and well-being in mind after all—we don’t want them to get sick and there are other foods we’d like them to fill up on! Letting your kids decide how much they want is a helpful way for them to learn for themselves how much their body needs. Yes, they may overeat a few times, but when they learn that sweets are regularly allowed and they realize how it feels when they overeat on them, they’re naturally going to learn what the right amount is for them. Only when you restrict sweets from kids (and ourselves) does it become a bigger issue. So, offer a balanced snack along with the candy and watch what happens. 

It’s not always easy, but changing your approach to be more neutral around sweets will help your kids form a more positive relationship with food and remain the intuitive eater that they are. That’s sweet success! 

Kara Hoerr is a wife, mom to a 5-month-old, and a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in family and childhood nutrition. She’s originally from Iowa, but has called Madison home for the past 8 years. When she’s not helping families and individuals end mealtime battles or quit diets for good, she’s usually baking or cooking in her kitchen, running or biking on the Madison trails, or relaxing with a good book. She never expected to start her own business, but here she is with Kara Hoerr Nutrition. She offers nutrition coaching and online courses to help moms (and dads!) out at the dinner table. To learn more or to set up a free discovery call, email Kara at [email protected], or find her on Instagram.

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