Halloween is filled with fun and fright that should be enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, those with a food allergy, specifically gluten sensitivities or intolerance, may find it difficult to engage in the festivities. Many snacks, treats, and candies handed out at homes on Halloween are not gluten-free. This means that those who can’t eat gluten must go out of their way to find an alternative or simply abstain from Halloween treats. This time of year should be fun for all regardless of dietary limitations. Therefore, the following list of seven tips has been compiled to provide multiple ideas and methods to make Halloween more inclusive for those with food allergies.
1) Swap Candy with Friends or at Home
If one’s gluten sensitive kids are set on going out trick-or-treating, it can help to have a backup stash of safe gluten-free candy at home. If they return with their loot and come to find they can’t eat a large percentage of it, they may become disappointed. If one has prepared appropriately, rather than being left with a sack of inedible treats, the kids can trade the problem foods for safe ones. If they are aware of what foods and candies are not safe, they may be able to trade with other children rather than rely on what is at home. This activity promotes sharing and trading in addition to food safety.
2) Talk About Dietary Restrictions
Being well-informed of one’s condition is critical to living at one’s best. Having a strong understanding of gluten allergies and passing that information on to one’s kids better prepares them to safely handle their allergies and intolerances. If they know the dangerous foods to stay away from, it helps them make better and healthier choices. Making a plan before the big night can set a child up for the best experience possible.
3) Make a Candy Cheat Sheet
Remembering all of the foods and candies that contain gluten can be daunting and difficult. The best way to keep track of the many danger-foods is by creating a gluten-free cheat sheet for easy reference. Copies can be left in prominent places around the home and given to one’s would-be trick-or-treaters to help them avoid gluten-filled foods. Fortunately, the list of dangerous candies and sweets is steadily reducing as more companies are producing gluten-free treats. A large list of gluten-free candy can be found here.
4) Inspect to Protect
Before chowing down on the spoils of the night, take the time to sit down with the kids and inspect food labels for any allergens and food safety warnings. Some foods containing gluten may not appear on every list of danger foods. If there is any suspicion that a food may have gluten or other allergens in it, take the time to read the label or research the product. Even if a product doesn’t contain gluten in the food itself, it may be produced in an environment allowing cross contamination. Warning labels are frequently in the finest of print but that should not deter one from making the effort to read it and safeguarding health. As with all candy, regardless of food allergies or sensitivities, never eat anything that is opened, looks tampered with, or has a broken seal.
5) Bake Some Gluten Free Alternatives
As an alternative to purchasing treats to hand out, or simply snack on at home, consider making some gluten-free Halloween themed foods and snacks. Caramel popcorn, trail mix, frozen cookie dough balls, pumpkin cookies, gluten-free pumpkin bread, and a wealth of other tasty options can be found using the many resources and gluten-free communities found online. Making one’s own snacks can provide a health and tasty alternative to store bought candies. This also allows one to know exactly what is contained in the foods consumed by themselves and their family.
6) Throw a Stay-In Halloween Party
Halloween parties are a common pastime for adults during this time of the year but throwing a party for kids can be fun too. There are many different activities such as pumpkin carving contests, horror-themed party games, costume contests or watching scary movies that provide plenty of non-food related fun. Creating an alternative event to candy collecting helps shift the focus away from food and sugary snacks. Hosting an event also allows one to control the party favors and food content ensuring that gluten-free individuals can join in the snacking and celebrating.
7) Decorate a (teal) Pumpkin
Jack-O-Lanterns and pumpkin carving is a longstanding Halloween tradition. Not only does this practice provide a festive decoration for the home but it also offers delicious and nutritious pumpkin seeds to replace some unsafe Halloween snacks. If one is feeling inspired to support a more inclusive and allergen free Halloween, they should consider decorating their pumpkin teal in support of the Teal Pumpkin Project.
The Teal Pumpkin Project
For those with food allergies and sensitivities it can be difficult to enjoy Halloween to its fullest. Children who are unable to eat certain candies may feel left out. Fortunately, there is a movement to provide healthy fun alternatives to handing out potentially dangerous or allergenic foodstuffs.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was created by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) to raise awareness of food allergies and sensitivities particularly for the Halloween season. The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to promote safe inclusion of all would-be trick-or-treaters regardless of food restrictions.
Joining in the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy. The following steps make sure one is prepared to offer fun alternatives for those unable to enjoy the common sugary and gluten-filled treats associated with the Halloween.
- Hand out non-food treats such as glow sticks, toys, stickers, etc.
- Paint or purchase a teal pumpkin and place it in plain sight to notify passersby that food alternatives can be found there.
- Set up a Teal Pumpkin Project poster or pamphlet acquired through FARE to raise awareness of the project.
Many believe that Halloween needs to be a more inclusive event that is sensitive to those unable to enjoy the regular snacks and treats. This is clear because in 2016, nearly 18,000 homes throughout the United States took part in this more inclusive method of celebrating Halloween. Hopefully, that number will continue to increase as awareness of food allergies increases and people participate in alternative celebrations such as the Teal Pumpkin Project.