When the goblins are out and about, Halloween brings a huge influx of candy into the household. Kids bring back the candy they collect, and adults bring in candy to hand out. Both supplies add extra dynamics to home food levels and put stress on diets, appetites and food choices.
But it doesn’t have to be crazy with candy this Halloween. The CAMP System teaches us much about how adults and kids alike can approach Halloween candy with mindfulness and reason.
Helping Kids Make Mindful Choices
Coming home with a bagful of treats is the dream of many children, and that dream may include the desire for a long, no-holds-barred eating session later on. But parents may be reluctant to let the kids dive into a huge bag of candy without limits, and for good reason. A common strategy is to set a limit of a certain number of treats at one time. But better would be if we start to encourage kids to establish their own limits.
The following strategies are designed to give kids some power over their own decisions while making the candy-eating a mindful experience. Candy is too energy-dense to simply wolf it all down; rather, we need to honor it as a special food and respect its energy.
Set aside a time to eat the candy, during which the kids should put their full attention to the treats. The idea here is to eat the candy mindfully and with undivided attention. Get the kids away from the TV and the games and structure a candy-eating time. This is the most important strategy of all, because it takes away the mindless eating of candy, when huge quantities can be eaten without any thought. The attention to the eating can go a long way to naturally limiting the amount eaten.
A central lesson of CAMP is that food is first and foremost for nutrition, not for entertainment. We shouldn’t eat so much that we feel sick or lousy later on. Ask the kids to select the number they plan to eat at a particular time. How much candy can you eat and not feel uncomfortable or crummy? This may involve a little negotiation, but let the kids be invested in the amount chosen.
Another lesson of CAMP is that we need to slow down while we eat. This allows us to enjoy food more, and we tend to eat less when we take it slow. The strategies in this article are all designed to slow your candy eaters down.
Once the quantity of candy has been determined, then use one or more of these CAMP activities during at least some of the bites of candy:
- How many chews? With this bite of candy, find out how many chews it takes to chew it up completely. Each candy or treat will have its own unique number of chews. With another bite, have the kids predict how many chews it will take to eat the candy before they start; then let them see how close they could guess.
- How long can it last? With this bite, see how long you can keep it in your mouth. No chewing allowed. With two or more, this can be competitive—who’s candy can last longest? With one kid, use a clock or watch to see how long the candy lasts. Find out what types of candy last the longest.
- How do candies taste in combination? With this bite, pick two candies and chew them slowly together. Can you taste each candy? What is the combined taste like? This activity can be repeated many times with different candies. Find the most delicious new taste sensation!
- Can you tell the candy if you don’t see it before you eat it? With this bite, the child closes his eyes and another person puts the food in the child’s mouth, asking, What candy is this? This exercise promotes deep sensing of the tastes and textures of the candy.
- Can you tell the candy by smell? With this bite, the child closes his eyes and another person brings one of the treats to the child’s nose, asking, What candy is this? This exercise promotes deep sensing of the aromas of the candy.
- Does candy change its tastes as you chew it? With this bite, ask the child to pay attention to the taste of the candy from the first chew to the last. What can you taste at first that you can’t taste later? What can you taste later that you couldn’t taste at first?
- With larger candies, such as a candy bar, ask the kid into how many pieces the candy could be cut up. Then, the rule is that each piece must be completely chewed and swallowed before the next piece can be eaten.
As time goes on, let the kids eat an item or so any way they would like. Also, ask them if they’d like to stop and have the rest of the candy they’ve chosen to eat later on. Just because they picked 10 pieces or so doesn’t mean that they can’t change their minds and stop before all are eaten. If they know the rules that every time they have Halloween candy they’re going to use these exercises, they will begin to make their own choices about how often they set aside special time for eating these treats. And most important: they will be developing special eating skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Adults Need CAMP Too!
Kids aren’t the only people who find Halloween candy a new and enticing temptation. Even if you don’t have kids, you still may be buying candy to give out and finding yourself sampling the treats from time to time (and hoping that few show up Halloween night leaving you with a candy bonanza).
We can take serious lessons from the activities for kids above. Here’s a few suggestions for you this holiday to help you enjoy the candy and not feel guilt:
- Until it has to be out, keep holiday candy put away—out of sight.
- Help yourself to the candy, but only one piece and at a time when you can devote your full attention to it. No snacking while watching TV or doing other things.
- Sniff the candy deeply before you take a bite.
- Put only small bites in your mouth and resist any chewing. Make the experience a long and savoring one. Make each bite a "Basic Mindful Bite."
- Pause on purpose between bites. How long can you make a small amount of candy last?
- Be generous and give away left-over candy at the office, church or school. Remember, there will always be candy again next Halloween.