Facing a mountain of candy, after Halloween, is a perfect time for parents to discuss moderation with children.

Facing a mountain of candy, after Halloween, is a perfect time for parents to discuss moderation with children. This concept started in ancient civilizations but seems at risk of becoming extinct now and we are paying the price with more and more children gaining too much weight.


The Greeks lived by Aristotle’s “The Golden Mean” aiming to be in the middle, never near the extremes. Confucius in China, and the Buddha in India with his “Middleway” taught similar views. They all stressed the importance of not living life in excess or deficiency.


Applied to eating, they understood a good life was one in healthy balance – not being gluttonous or in extreme deprivation. Have we lost sight of this simple wisdom?Just because Mary collects a pillow case full of candy, does it make sense for her to eat it with wild abandon? Instead of throwing your hands up, vowing to double your efforts to collect empty wrappers, why not have a frank discussion about balance with your children. If a child has overindulged in Halloween candy and later has a painful belly, or suffers from constipation, ask him what they believe caused the problem. Engage your child in critical thinking about food, rather than telling him your answer or, “I told you so.” Ask your child to list the positives and negatives of eating too much candy. You might need to prompt a bit, but most children are intuitive when given a forum. They might come up with items like this: Positives – Tastes good – Gives me energy – Makes me feel good – It was free – May not get a stash like this until next year! Negatives – Tummy hurts – I can’t concentrate – I feel bad later – I don’t have room for good foods, like fruits and vegetables. – My nose runs and I get sick – I could gain weight – It’s not good for my heart or muscles


Add more specific information, depending on the age of the child or adolescent. For example many candies are high in saturated fat which clogs arteries, and sugar which stresses the immune system. Small amounts can represent excessive calories too. For example, three average-sized candy packages, like Twix (286), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (260), and Snickers (271) add up to 48 percent of the average calorie needs of a 7-10 year old girl (1700 per day.)


Moderation involves enjoying some candy but not being excessive. Help them determine a reasonable portion, one that does not cause ill effects and makes them feel well over the course of the day, not just in the act of eating. They might also figure the candy stash is too big and decide to divide it up and donate the rest to a food pantry or shelter. Aristotle would be proud…


Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition and food science, and a certified personal trainer. She is the nutrition director at Fitness Unlimited.


Readers may send questions about nutrition to Endyke at Fitness Unlimited, 364 Granite Ave., Milton, MA 02186 or by e-mail to jendyke@fitnessunlimited.com.