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Trick, or Treat? Is There a Time and Place for "Junk Food?"

25 October 2013

There is a part of me that tries to be balanced. Everything in it's time and place. There's a time for healthy foods, and there's a time for treats.

When we are at a birthday party, I don't think twice about letting my kids have cake or ice-cream or whatever the particular party treat is (except for my son who shouldn't have dairy, and the baby who shouldn't have wheat or dairy, but that's another topic for another day.) I'm pretty restrictive of treats on a day to day basis, but parties, parties are the time, and the place for treats.

Possibly his first piece of candy ever at my mom's Halloween party for the kids.

When it comes to school parties, though, I struggle. Perhaps I'm still shell-shocked from the horror of a Halloween party during my first year as a teacher (I'll spare you all of the details but, it involved puke which ranks pretty high up on my all time list of things I try to avoid at all cost.) Or perhaps it's just the fact that instead of being one special treat, on one special day, holidays like Halloween have become non-stop junk fests and it's really hard for me to let go, smile, and just enjoy it.

The mom heading up this years' Halloween party (which technically was a "Literacy Day," party, but really was a Halloween party) called me to see if I could bring a snack. I was momentarily tongue-tied as I struggled to think of what I would bring. I was relieved when she jumped in and asked if I could bring grapes or some other fruit.

Saved! I didn't have to be "that mom." She asked me to bring fruit! I was just doing what I was asked!!

She then listed off the other snacks that parents were bringing which was, quite honestly, a TON of food, but did, thankfully, include clementines (with pumpkin faces), crackers and cheese, and veggies with dip.

However, as I headed to the store to buy grapes for the party, I had visions of the grapes ending up in the trash. Even though most kids like grapes, it's hard for a grape to catch top billing when it's up against Oreo spiders, cupcakes, candy, and chips.

I considered making a fruit kebab but wasn't sure if it was a good idea to provide sugared-up first graders with a snack that so closely resembled a weapon.

I settled on putting the grapes in cupcake wrappers covered with candy corn. It felt ironic, in a good way. Was I trying to send a subliminal message... maybe.

The wrappers came with little picks that the kids could use to pick up the grapes. I knew that this would make eating the grapes more fun, but I worried that the picks could also pose a danger. Even my husband told me it was too risky. However, all of the parents at the party shrugged off the risk, so I went for it. I was glad I did.

The very first thing that I saw several children eat was a grape, and I'm certain that would not have happened without the picks. Most of the kids ate the grapes. In fact, more kids may have eaten the grapes than the cupcakes (not that I was keeping score or anything.)

Interestingly. My own son. The boy who will eat anything and probably my best eater devoured every bit of sugar on his plate and then went tearing into his treat bags looking for more, while his grapes, veggies, clementine, cheese and crackers sat untouched.

Some would argue that this means that I'm too strict. That as soon as my kids get a chance, they'll eat nothing but junk in rebellion, but I disagree. He likes grapes and clementines and veggies and cheese, but he knows that those are readily available any time. It was a party, and parties are where he gets treats, and he is smart enough to take full advantage.

So, what do you think? Is serving grapes at a school party a trick or a treat? Is there a time and place for "junk food?"

For more on how I handle Halloween with my family, you can check out my post, Handling the Halloween Aftermath.


  1. I totally agree with you. I hated all the junk food parties at school when my daughter went to kindergarten. Then the teachers had some behavior problems and began rewarding the kids with cookies. My daughter was well behaved so got 3 cookies per day. I brought the teacher a bag of dimes and asked her to reward my daughter with those instead.

    When I had to bring snacks for the week at my daughter's school, I brought fresh popcorn, raisins, and other healthy treats. They weren't a hit. My kids can eat what they want at parties, but when candy bars are handed out after dance class on a weekly basis, that's just too much for me.

  2. Oh I forgot to mention the Halloween fairy. My kids are thrilled to choose 3 pieces of candy to eat Halloween night. They always select the biggest and longest lasting treats. Then the Halloween fairy comes, takes all the candy and leaves a toy in it's place. Halloween is great fun, but I don't want the treats to last for 2 months.


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