Sweetened or savory? Healthy snack? A mother’s dilemma

Like most moms, I gave my two young daughters each one of the popular Halloween candies in the hopes that they’d outgrow them in time for the holiday. My older one is not a…

Sweetened or savory? Healthy snack? A mother’s dilemma

Like most moms, I gave my two young daughters each one of the popular Halloween candies in the hopes that they’d outgrow them in time for the holiday. My older one is not a voracious snacker, which makes it less likely that she’ll develop an eating disorder, but she does have a sweet tooth. She’ll eat just about anything in front of her, even if it’s something most folks don’t like. Last fall, I gave her M&Ms. This year, I’m rationing. I’ve only given her Laffy Taffy, which isn’t particularly satisfying. Is it just me, or should I not be giving laffy Taffy at all?

—Susan

Dear Susan:

A lot of us might feel a bit queasy with the idea of giving our kids laffy Taffy at this age, which is sort of at the “11 and a half” stage for a little girl who is usually a bit miffed when someone doesn’t come over to her room to give her a hug. We’re talking about a traditional candy bar – single piece of candy bar – with a blobby outer coating that even those who know it’s fake won’t be able to recognize as anything we ought to be eating. I think that it’s a bit gratuitous to then use laffy Taffy, with all its creepy appearance, to coax your kid into eating more than the 15-20 pieces of candy that she typically eats around Halloween.

I highly doubt that’s the case, Susan, but to give her something more substantial to eat, like a handful of M&Ms, you may actually be increasing the risk of her developing an eating disorder. The risk of eating disorders are fairly high among children, especially girls (the risk is five times higher for girls than for boys), so the last thing you want to do is make this one worse.

My advice is to give your little girl something far, far more indulgent – maybe something good to eat, a bag of Halloween candy with sticky fingers included. Sure, it might be all over her face by late fall, but what you’re really doing is pushing her to eat more than she’s used to eating. If you use laffy Taffy as a kind of motivational catalyst to help her eat more candy – as opposed to something to make her gorge herself – then giving her a few too many will not only be more reasonable, but hopefully will also result in her getting healthier too.

John Zogby is a political commentator, social critic and author.

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