Photo: Kristen Moore

Halloween is a mixed emotion day for anyone with food allergies or intolerances. It’s hard to be a kid and go from the excitement of having a bag full of candy to the disappointment of setting aside all the forbidden ones, and as a parent watching your child once again struggle because of a food issue, it can be anxiety-provoking and just plain hard. Luckily the candy industry is not short on variations of sugar so one thing that has helped my sons and I navigate the discouraging process of sorting is by having some safe picks stashed away at home so I can trade them their discards for a fresh pile of custom picked-especially-for-them candies. It doesn’t seem to matter a bit if the pile they are giving up is bigger than the pile they are getting, especially if it comes in a fun package or with a small toy such as collectible cards or some other favorite item. Cupcakes or cookies are always a welcome trade too, but art supplies, graphic novels, and other nonfood items are especially exciting. Plus, letting the kids hand off the forbidden candy to a donation collection place is a great way to make the kids think about how they can help others. 

Another idea is to hold a Halloween party of your own so you can dictate the food requirements. It takes very little to make a successful Halloween party for kids since they are so excited about dressing up, just add are some acceptable treats and lower the lights and throw about some glow sticks and that is pretty much all kids require for a happy Halloween memory. You can add some music to let them dance out some of their sugar energy if trick-or-treating all together isn’t on the party’s agenda. Bonus points if the parents get to party a bit too.

A simple way we lessened the Halloween candy angst which seemed to help quite a lot is by making the holiday more about the costumes than the candy. Purists might not be able to make this leap, but up until my boys were about seven, we walked around an outdoor mall instead of doing the traditional house to house trick-or-treating, and they were enthralled with all the people in costumes all around them. The candy aspect could not compete with throngs of superheroes, princesses, Star Wars characters, and ghosts every which way they looked. It was thrilling for them and even though we switched to neighborhood trick-or-treating as they got older with fewer characters to encounter, they still equate Halloween with costumes and not so much the candy.

Of course the candy sorting still had to be done when we got home, which is where I learned the biggest lesson of all concerning Halloween and food intolerances and allergies, and that is to model a positive additude about it and the kids will surprise you. When I learned to think of it as character building for them, I became better able to focus on the fact they were learning to show judgment, understand consequences, and give up some things that are hard to give up because it’s the healthiest choice for them. They get to learn it isn’t the end of the world to part with some candy and that is a lesson in emotional maturity that I can truly be thankful for. They handle it, and so do I. (Of course, having that stash of goodies helps.) Let’s enjoy this holiday everyone! Be safe and have fun.