Healthy Halloween: Think Outside the Candy Dish

Healthy HalloweenWhen I first told my husband we weren’t giving out candy for Halloween, he thought I had lost my mind. I certainly didn’t want our house to be one of those places that kids complain about, but I figured a few yo-yos, a rubber ducky, or a fun toy might be a nice change from the typical candies and chocolate. Besides, I knew too well that having all the candy around was an extra temptation that our family just didn’t need. I was a little nervous about my decision, until my first trick-or-treater ran back to his dad and said, “Cool! A slinky!” Last year, a group of girls even told my husband that she looked forward to the “rubber ducky house” every year. I’m not sure how I resisted the opportunity to say, “I told you so!”

Fun alternative candy options include stickers, little toys, rubber duckies, bouncing balls, mini games, and much more. Temporary tattoos can also be an option for children you know well. Oriental Trading Company ( offers a wide selection of child-friendly options.

Toys can be more expensive than candy, but it depends on how you look at it. When you add up the cost of the bag of candy you bought on sale in September to save for Halloween that somehow got eaten, the one you bought in mid-October (trust me, that one will most likely disappear as well), and the one you have to run out at the last minute to buy, it tends to even out in the end.

Of course, I have great memories of eating excessive quantities of candy on Halloween as a kid and teen. While there’s nothing wrong with that on occasion, non-food treats provide a little more balance. Most children are up for treats of all kinds, but it’s us adults that tend to put the focus on food.

If you would prefer to stick with food treats, there are also healthier, gluten-free, allergy-friendly treats such as mini LaraBars, little snack bags of nuts, fruit leathers, EnviroKidz mini bars, Yummy Earth Gummy Bears, a variety of options from Enjoy Life, and mini cookie packs from Pamela’s Cookies and Lucy’s Cookies. If you want to go the classic candy route, make sure to plan ahead and read the labels of your favorite candies and snacks to see if they are gluten-free. Some treats that are normally gluten-free or allergen-free have different ingredients in their holiday sizes and shapes, so be extra careful and always double check.

Tips for Enjoying Halloween with Food Restrictions

• Start early and consider planning something different that your child can fully participate in and enjoy. Is there a local gluten-free support group? There may already be fun festivities planned for Halloween, or of course, you can always step up and host your own party.

• Build your Halloween festivities around other seasonal outings such as going to a haunted house or pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, arts and crafts contests, or costume contests. Shift the focus off of  candy. Other parents may welcome the change, too!

• Get prepared. Figure out what candies are safe for your child. Every year, several ROCK (Raising Our Celiac Kids) groups put out a safe candy list at the end of October, so keep your eyes open and watch for that.

• Speak to the teacher at school and find out what is planned so that your child will be safe and included. Send along an extra seasonal treat just in case there is an unexpected change in plans.

Trick-or-Treat Troubleshooting: 

Make sure that everyone eats dinner before going trick-or-treating and preferably before getting into costume!

Use caution when munching along on candy as you go from door-to-door. Having a bag full of tempting goodies can be seriously challenging for even the most careful  parent or child. We can’t read the labels very well in the dark and sometimes the mini-sized candies don’t have labels on them at all.

Pre-stock your Halloween bag with foods that are “legal” for your child and yourself so that you can safely snack along the way.

Stash bags of pre-approved candy for your child at friends’ houses along your route when possible.

When it’s all said and done, offer a trade-in. Your child can trade the “problem” candies and treats for “safe” treats or games, prizes, special outings, etc. You can either hide the “problem” candy somewhere out of reach, take it to your workplace, or donate it to a local food bank or shelter. Some dentists even offer candy “buy backs” or trade-in days.

Have a healthy and safe Halloween!

Written by Cheryl Harris

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