Candy and the Holidays
Is it just me? Am I the only one who cringes every time a holiday comes near and I know my daughter is going to be given massive amounts of tooth decaying, diabetes inducing, chemical laden, metabolism killing candy? I hope not. There are so many holidays that have been commercialized that as soon as I heave a deep sigh of relief about the fact that the candy from the last holiday is gone, another one is around the corner. For my daughter’s first few Easters I had the “but it’s a special occasion” mentality. I was still learning this parenting thing and I didn’t understand how everything fits together within the community of our society. I falsely assumed we were her only influences. I didn’t buy a lot of candy ourselves, but made sure we had the traditional peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate bunny. I didn’t want to deprive her of any essential American traditions. When others gave her candy as well, I was sort of confused. Somehow, I hadn’t anticipated that. As she grew older, I slowly came to the stark realization that I wasn’t the only one giving my daughter candy and presents and we weren’t the only one controlling these types of influences. They were coming from EVERYWHERE!!! As one year and then another went by, the candy from each holiday would stretch out until the next holiday to the point that candy wasn’t really a special occasions thing anymore, but a daytoday thing.
So last year, I decided to try to change that. It was at Easter that I made the decision to actively try to control the intake of sweets. I still gave her some candy in her basket, just a little because I couldn’t stop myself from buying the peeps and chocolate eggs that I’d grown to associate with the holiday (I have a sugar problem myself, which is half the battle!). However, we decided to do our family Easter egg hunt sans candy. I went to the dollar section at Target and found tiny little things with which to fill the eggs—hair bows, little figurines, stickers, socks, doll house trinkets, ribbons, bracelets, necklaces, crayons, bouncy balls, and more. We also filled half the eggs with spare pocket change that she could add to the money she earns by doing chores. In addition, we had a set of Resurrection Eggs—a dozen eggs filled with symbols that represent the passion of Christ such as nails, a stone, a cross, etc—and we went through the symbolism of each of those to give meaningful significance to the egg hunting tradition. If the Easter celebrations had been limited to just our immediate family, I would have been very happy with the limited intake of sugar. But then there were the grandparents—packages in the mail with chocolates and wellintended Easter baskets filled with candy—and the church Easter Egg hunt which boasted armfuls of the sugary stuff. We just shook our heads. We’d tried. What else could we do?
This year, I feel the frustration even more as it seems that control over my child’s diet and health spirals out of my hands with every trip to the grocery store, every Sunday school lesson, every wellmeaning family member, every dance class, and every holiday she celebrates in daycare. Because I can’t control the fact that she will get candy from someone at some point for Easter, she won’t be getting any in her basket or in our family egg hunt. None at all. She will get plenty of little surprises from us so I don’t even think she’ll miss the candy. Also, if we keep this up she won’t be like me: walking through the holiday aisle at the grocery store, craving the taste of Cadbury eggs because they take her back to her childhood, and buying them simply because of the tradition stacked up over time. I decided I’m not going to accept the status quo this year. We are making new traditions. And as far as outside influences go, I can take control of her diet even then. It won’t be easy, but for her sake, it needs to happen. These are some of the things I’ve decided to do to help her out:
Tips for minimizing sugar-overdose
1) Talk to her caregivers. I didn’t want to be “that parent,” but I can’t just sit idly by while they stuff my kid full of junk from week to week. Let them know I appreciate the good will intended with the candy, but that it’s just not the kind of thing I want to be prevalent in her diet.
2) Offer healthy solutions to said care givers. I can bring in some fruit, crackers, or stickers as a substitute. When I ask said caregivers not to hand out candy, it might be helpful if I gave them the alternative instead.
3) Have items to trade available: A friend of mine is very proactive about controlling unhealthy inputs in her kids diets and she says she has other prizes that she trades for candy when it’s given to her kids. When Bunny came out of day care the other day with a bag full of Easter candy, I tried it and it worked! She gladly gave me the entire bag in exchange for a new, Frozen coloring book.
4) Set a precedent in the home. If she’s eating healthy foods at home, she’s going to develop a taste for those foods and not want the candy as much. As it is, her fruits and vegetables are the first things to go when she eats her meals. I’m really proud of that!
5) Educate her. She’s a little young to make responsible, longterm decisions such as avoiding candy on her own, but sometimes, I leave it up to her. I tell her what the candy can do to her body and her teeth, then remind her of the last treat she had, and let her make the decision herself. Usually, she chooses to take the candy when I give her this choice, but I’m hoping one day she’ll start realizing the benefits of consuming it in small doses or not at all. Eating candy at holidays is a bad habit we’ve acquired that we have to learn to break.
Like any bad habit, it will take practice to rid ourselves of it. Our efforts will be met with some failures and some successes, but in the end, if we persevere, it will be worth it. And hopefully our children’s developing little bodies will learn to crave the things that they really need to live a healthy, energetic, and productive lifestyle.