With plenty of Halloween treats available this time of year, it is only natural to want your family to enjoy them. However, if you have a child with food allergies or dietary restrictions, you need to be cautious and find ways to keep them safe. So what are the best options for avoiding unsafe foods yet enjoying Halloween?
Everyone can enjoy Halloween safely, including children with food allergies or dietary restrictions, if the parents plan and teach them how to avoid unsafe foods.
The safer treats are the non-food treats like pencils, necklaces, glow rings, or Lego toys.
After a night of indulging, Halloween sweets should be eaten in moderation.
One in 13 American children — or about two students per classroom — have a food allergy. Some cases are mild, but some allergic reactions can be life-threatening. About 40% of children with food allergies are treated in the emergency room.
The only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to strictly avoid those foods to which a child is allergic. Some foods responsible for serious reactions are those found in Halloween treats, including milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and other tree nuts. In addition, sesame allergies, also found in many sweets, are an emerging concern.
What are the safest options? According to an allergy specialist, Dr. M. Segal of Chestnut Hill Allergy & Asthma Associates, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Starbursts, and Life Savers candies are considered the safest for those with food allergies. Companies such as Enjoy Life and YumEarth produce candies and chocolates that do not contain the topmost common allergens. It is important to separate safe sweets from those that contain allergens to avoid cross-contamination.
Children with food allergies should get regularly tested, as allergies to new foods can develop over time.
Food sensitivities (intolerances) are not life-threatening but are more prevalent than food allergies. Food sensitivities cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal discomfort, cramping, nausea, heartburn, skin rashes, fatigue, joint pain, and headaches.
The top food sensitivities in children are lactose (dairy), gluten, caffeine, histamine, fructose, sulfites, corn, soy, and FODMAPs (a group of fermentable carbohydrates). Other common food sensitivities include artificial sweeteners (i.e., aspartame), artificial colors, eggs, MSG, and yeast. Again, many of these ingredients are commonly found in Halloween treats.
What are the safest options? Enjoy Life, YumEarth, Surf Sweets Gummy Candies, and many other brands available online or in health food stores are free from gluten, dairy, soy, artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. However, parents should check the labels to make sure all the ingredients are safe.
Dietary restrictions due to medical conditions or personal/family choices
Children with certain medical conditions have dietary restrictions. For example, those with celiac disease must avoid gluten. Children with Type 1 diabetes need to avoid or highly limit processed foods, sweet treats, sodas, and sugary drinks. Some children with epilepsy may follow a ketogenic diet.
In other cases, entire families follow special diets, like vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, or Kosher.
In these cases, parents need to check labels carefully and allow children to consume only appropriate foods.
The Teal Pumpkin Project
The safest Halloween treats for children with food allergies or dietary restrictions are non-food treats such as pencils, necklaces, glow rings, or Lego toys. Besides, children love these treats.
The rules are simple. Those who choose to be part of the Teal Pumpkin Project place a teal pumpkin on their doorstep. This means that in addition to candies, they also offer non-food treats, which are safer for all trick-or-treaters. Once the Teal Pumpkin Project adds a house to its map, those looking for safe treats can find it easier.
Tips for handling Halloween treats
Give your child a healthy snack before going out trick-or-treating. If they are not hungry, they are less likely to eat sweets and candies before properly checking.
Get creative. In addition to buying allergy-friendly snacks, many foods can be decorated for Halloween. Allow your child to help you decorate them. For example, a banana can be turned into a ghost, a sandwich into a monster, pretzels into spiderwebs, and oranges can be decorated to look like jack-o’-lanterns. This way, safe foods available at home are more appealing to a child.
Talk to neighbors in advance and invite them to participate in the Pumpkin Teal Project.
Don’t let your food-allergic child go trick-or-treating alone. An older sibling or a parent who knows what to do in an emergency should accompany the child. Furthermore, children with food allergies should always carry an EpiPen.
Children with food allergies or other dietary restrictions should learn how to say no to foods that may be unsafe, particularly homemade sweets or products that do not have a label with all the ingredients.
Teach the child not to eat any treats while trick-or-treating. They should until they get home.
Once home, parents should sort the candies into two piles: a “keep pile” that is safe to eat and a “trade pile” that is given away or exchanged for another food or toy.
Try adding healthy foods to accompany the high-sugar Halloween treats. For example, serve almond butter (if not allergic), hummus, veggies, or berries. These foods help stabilize blood glucose levels, which would otherwise spike.
After indulging in the treats on Halloween night, the sweets should be consumed in moderation. Teach your child that the more they save, the more they will have for later.
Everyone can enjoy Halloween safely, including children with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. However, parents need to be extra cautious, teach children to bring all of their treats home, check labels, and consume only safe treats. The Pumpkin Teal Project is great for those interested in giving away or receiving non-food treats.