Halloween Fallout

Two carved pumpkins glowing

So there lies the sugary harvest and ideally, some time in the previous week, kids and their caregivers have already agreed on what will be done with it. Somebody needs to decide what will happen to the loot and, hopefully, parents and children were able to collaborate in setting a limit. As an added bonus, if you can persuade them to design and observe boundaries here, that willingness could carry over into other areas of life. Elicit a child’s cooperation in making a plan, and you’re halfway to success.

If more than one child is involved, and they plan to swap back and forth, it doesn’t need to happen the minute they return from trick-or-treating. Prolong the holiday spirit by putting off the barter session until the next day. Give the traders time to settle down and think clearly about the deals they hope to make. Even after all the hoopla of getting the goods, and making shrewd bargains with each other, they might be willing to at least relinquish the brands they don’t care for, or even all of it. A kid can surprise you, and a smart adult never loses sight of that fact.

Variations on a theme​

​Maybe the family has set up some kind of rationing mechanism, so the sweets will not all be gobbled down at once. The take might be divided into four piles, with three piles released into parental custody, to be returned at one-week intervals. Or, the kids could keep half, and let a parent take the rest to share at work. Or the majority of the sweets could be reserved for day-by-day release in school lunch bags.

Some candies are candidates to be frozen for later use. People have been known to bake cupcakes with pieces of candy in their middles. At least one family has reported saving the Halloween treats to make Advent calendars. Some candies are even visually appropriate to reserve for decorating a gingerbread house at Christmas. Maybe you’ve got the Switch Witch thing going on, and each child’s hoard will be swapped for a toy or other item. ​ Take the donation route?

If some or all of the swag is to be given away, recipients may include homeless shelters, food pantries, senior centers, nursing homes, hospices, and veterans’ organizations. Some dentists participate in a program where they buy surplus candy from young Americans and send it to deployed troops overseas.

But why would any kid in their right mind go along with any of this? Who knows? The only certainty is that they can occasionally surprise you. Making a plan ahead of time will probably work out better than leaving it until the gruesome pile of calories is actually sitting there, staring your child in the face. In the concluding paragraph, Dr. David Ludwig speaks on the morality of simply disposing of the Halloween haul:

After your child has had one or two candies from their Trick-or-Treat booty, throw out the rest (don’t give it away and foist the problem on other kids). Use the occasion as an opportunity to teach your kids a critical message: health comes first… Yes, it’s important to respect food, and not be wasteful, especially when some people don’t have enough to eat. But typical Halloween candy isn’t food, it’s junk.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What is the Halloween Candy Buyback?,” HalloweenCandyBuyback.com, undated
Source: “Counterpoint: It’s Not Just OK To Throw Out Halloween Candy, It’s Smart,” Wbur.org, 11/02/16
Image “two jacks” by William Warby/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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