Halloween can be a magical night filled with treats and fun. But for kids with food allergies, the celebration can be a disappointment.
Children have delighted in the holiday’s spooky superstitions for centuries, promising tricks unless they get treats, wary of the witches, goblins, and ghouls that inhabit the earth on All Hallows’ Eve.
Admittedly, the holiday is not what it used to be. We live in a world where things that go bump in the night are not all we have to fear.
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But guess what?
We have plenty of ideas for celebrating the best food-safe Halloween ever!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What You’ll Learn
Get ready for fun!
The Teal Pumpkin Project
There’s a wonderful organization that is promoting safe and fun trick-or-treating for children with dietary restrictions.
FARE, or Food Allergy Research & Education, founded the Teal Pumpkin Project, which strives to make non-edible goodies, trinkets, and toys available to children who go trick-or-treating.
It’s simple to participate: place a teal-colored pumpkin or jack-o’lantern outside your house to indicate that you will offer non-edible items to allergen-sensitive trick-or-treaters.
Displaying a poster with FARE’s teal pumpkin logo is another way to alert the children in your neighborhood that you know the seriousness of dietary intolerances and that you’ll be giving out something fun they will be allowed to have.
What a fantastic idea!
If you plan to receive trick-or-treaters, pick up a teal pumpkin kit or paint a pumpkin teal to display in front of your house.
Then buy and gather your supply of fun non-edible goodies for the children in your neighborhood with dietary intolerances.
Some great inexpensive non-edibles are:
- Erasers in fun holiday shapes
- Glow sticks
- Mini cars
- Mini parachute figures
- Koosh balls
- Spider rings
You can also purchase a bulk set of assorted Halloween-themed toys and party favors.
Available from Amazon, this 156-piece set includes glitter tattoos, erasers, duck figurines, sticker sheets, and pencils.
And we think kids will love to twist, squeeze, and stretch these mini Halloween mochi squishy toys, also available from Amazon.
According to the FDA, there are nine major food allergens that require disclosure on grocery package labels in the US. They are:
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts
To be labeled entirely free of an allergen, a manufacturer’s facility and/or production line must be certified as such.
Many additional allergy-inducing items – including corn, chocolate, and strawberries – didn’t make the top nine in the US, so read labels carefully when shopping for children with allergies.
A unique challenge arises when a child has multiple intolerances, like gluten and lactose.
A cookie may be gluten free but not lactose free. Or, it may be completely free of milk but contains gluten.
Fortunately, some good quality packaged snacks are free of the nine major allergens. However – no surprise here – they may be more expensive compared to economy-size bags of candy commonly purchased for trick-or-treaters.
One you may like to try is Surf Sweets Gummy Worms. This all-natural, fruit juice sweetened snack is free of the nine major allergens and comes packaged in 2.75-ounce individual portions.
Surf Sweets Gummy Worms are available from Amazon.
Another sweet option to consider purchasing for the kids are colorful lollipops, like these YumEarth Organic Pops.
Also free of the big nine, these pops are made with real fruit extracts and contain no high-fructose corn syrup.
YumEarth Pops are available in packs of 40 via Amazon.
Snacks labeled “sugar-free” often contain artificial ingredients and sugar substitutes of dubious value.
Did you know that some sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect?
For children who follow a low-glycemic diet, I recommend homemade goodies or non-edible toys as safe substitutions for store-bought sweets and snacks.
Traditions to Love
Last year I had a trick-or-treater who carried a teal pumpkin from house to house, making her needs known and prompting the offer of non-edible goodies.
And do you know what I thought?
If we all gave out only non-edible items, we could take safety to new heights and level the playing field for many kids simultaneously.
Why not start a new tradition at your house? Offer to trick-or-treaters only what your child can have. Maybe you already do!
My family has multiple dietary restrictions, and we enjoy many traditions that deflect attention away from holiday food to a more inclusive focus on holiday fun.
Try one or all of the following activities when Halloween is approaching:
All Decked Out
Like me, many in my neighborhood enjoy autumn displays of pumpkins, scarecrows, cornstalks, and hay bales. Others make macabre churchyard settings complete with skeletons and tombstones.
A walk up and down the streets is like a museum tour, and it’s an outing we like to do as a family. It serves as free and safe entertainment for everyone to enjoy a stroll together on a perfect fall weekend.
When the late October nights come, you’ll find us on our front porch, huddled around a fire pit and lighting jack-o’lanterns in anticipation of the big night.
It’s also nice to decorate your own house, and to let the kids craft their own decorations they can proudly display outside or in the living room.
Growing up, making costumes was a tradition at my house. From fortune tellers to swashbuckling pirates, we made them all with fabric and cardboard scraps.
And since it was usually cold out, we had to make them fit over our jackets!
How about unplugging for a while?
Remember telling ghost stories around a campfire when you were a kid? Why not revive the tradition with your children?
Maybe you could read some of Edgar Allen Poe’s classics for inspiration.
If you have autumn-themed books in the house for the kids, collect them and keep them handy to read daily. Know your children’s tolerance for spooky tales, and don’t raise goosebumps before bed!
Speaking of goosebumps, not all children go for Halloween and its creepy and sinister aspects. Your youngest child may be fine one year and terrified the next.
Ease into activities and see how your kids like them. Always heed their cues.
Party at the House
When you have kids with food sensitivities, the best way to ensure they stay safe and have fun may be to skip trick-or-treating entirely and have a party at home.
Help them write invitations and invite several friends. Or send online invitations and start an exchange with the parents to share information about dietary restrictions.
Make healthy snacks or purchase food items accordingly, so there’s something for everyone.
Have the party early in October, as the children you invite may also want to go trick-or-treating. Invite the parents of very young guests to come along.
Another option is to attend a community party for children in your neighborhood.
Many locales host events that provide safe havens for supervised holiday fun. Be sure to inquire about dietary considerations, and offer to contribute items your kids can eat and drink.
If you come to my neighborhood for a spooky All Hallows’ Eve, don’t be surprised to see a parade of costumed dogs strolling the streets.
Even if you don’t join in the parade, your family may have fun dolling Fido up for some family pictures.
You may even enter him in a contest for the best-dressed pet. Check out fun events like this in your area!
Pumpkin Carving Events
An autumn event I enjoy year after year is a giant pumpkin carving contest held in a farmer’s field on a late October afternoon.
Designers scoop out these giant veggies grown with tender love and care and transfer intricate designs onto their skins. With an array of tools, they transform them into works of art and light them up to glow as the sun sets.
You can also do this yourself with smaller pumpkins at home, using your children’s favorite cartoons as inspirations for what you carve.
And save the seeds for roasting if pumpkin seeds are an approved food item!
Another annual event I’ve cherished since childhood is a pilgrimage to a local farm or orchard that hosts autumnal events.
Growing up, I would go to Linvilla Orchards every fall to choose the perfect pumpkins to carve and to picnic beneath the sycamore trees. A favorite feature at this family-owned farm is a giant corn maze.
Have the kids wear their costumes and bring your camera. I haven’t met a child yet who wouldn’t be excited to wander through the giant display of pumpkins of every shape and size to find the perfect one.
While Halloween comes every year, it’s helpful to review safety tips.
If your kids will go trick-or-treating, please remember the following:
- Go out early, preferably while there is still daylight
- Supervise children at all times
- Carry a flashlight
- Avoid masks altogether, or allow masks that don’t impede vision
- Wear something white or reflective, especially on a dark outfit
- Go only to houses where you know the residents
- Inspect all goodies immediately upon returning home
In our neighborhood, the kids come out early, and we usually run out of goodies by eight in the evening. Don’t forget to shut off your outside lights when you finish for the night.
If you’re giving out treats to children, please remember to:
- Put on all outdoor lights as darkness falls
- Make sure walkways are clear, with steps and railings in good repair
- Light pumpkins with electric flame candles
- Be certain fire pits or patio heaters are away from traffic areas and well attended
- Restrain dogs or other pets
- Examine purchased items and discard any with compromised packaging
- Offer food and non-food items separately
Keep an eye on the kids darting from house to house, and ensure a safe and happy holiday for all.
Original and Fun
Food sensitivities at the holidays are a challenge that may cause feelings of irritability and low self-esteem.
Don’t let your food-sensitive kids get the holiday blues!
Try some new activities that are sure to become favorites. Seek out other allergy-friendly families, and plan special events that take the focus off food and put it on fun!
We love to hear from you. What special holiday events have you enjoyed with the food-sensitive members of your family? Please tell us about them in the comments section below.
If you found this article helpful and want to read about more ways to enjoy allergen-conscious foods with your family, we recommend the following from our collection of helpful articles and tutorials:
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not in the garden, she’s in the kitchen preparing imaginative gluten- and dairy-free meals. With a background in business, writing, editing, and photography, Nan writes humorous and informative articles on gardening, food, parenting, and real estate topics. Having celiac disease has only served to inspire her to continue to explore creative ways to provide her family with nutritious locally-sourced food.