Halloween on a Special Diet

It’s that time again – another holiday that seems to be entirely focused on CANDY!!! A lot of the same tricks that got us through Easter will help us enjoy Halloween, but it does come with its own special challenge: Trick-or-Treating!

Is the Candy Safe?

Photos at the pumpkin patch

Photos at the pumpkin patch

The first thing to decide is whether or not your kids are going to eat the candy. If you are mostly concerned about gluten or a particular allergen, there are lists available telling which candies are safe. Here is one from Celiac Family that lists gluten-free Halloween candy that may show up in your kids’ baskets.

An important thing to know is that often “fun size” (and “king size”) versions of candies have different ingredients or are processed in different facilities than the regular size versions! Unfortunately, the ingredients and allergy statements of “fun size” candies are usually found on the outer bag rather than the individual candies. You may want to check with the manufacturers to make sure familiar candies are still safe!

Eat the Candy?

Halloween candy the kids collected but didn't eat

Halloween candy the kids collected but didn’t eat

If eating candy is something you think won’t cause your kids permanent damage, you may want to just let them go ahead and gorge on Halloween like all the other kids. My personal experience is that it’s better to have one big lapse on GAPS than to string it out for weeks or months. If your kids get to have a candy a day after halloween and there are good reasons they aren’t eating candy in the first place, they’ll be derailing their healing for a long period of time, not to mention getting addicted. Picky eating habits will come back and you’ll likely find yourself back at square one.

Here’s what Roxanne had to say on our facebook page:

I like to let my boys go trick or treating and then they are allowed to eat as much candy as they want until they get sick – which reinforces what I’m always telling them that candy makes them sick, lol! The rest of the candy then goes bye bye.

Our family has decided not to eat the candy… well, maybe a piece or two of the gluten-free candy will get eaten. But we don’t want to gorge, we don’t want to feel sick, and we don’t want to get re-addicted to sugar and other processed crap!

What to do with the candy?

GAPS legal caramel apple

GAPS-Legal Caramel Apples are a Halloween treat our kids love!

If you’re not going to eat the candy, you’ve got a couple choices – one is not to have it in the first place. Instead of trick or treating, you can host a Halloween party with treats like honey sticks or homemade caramel apples. Play games, watch a spooky movie, and tell scary stories around a camp fire.

For trick or treaters that come to your door, you can have healthier alternatives or toys available.

Here’s what Amy had to say on our facebook page:

We just can’t trick or treat. My kids can’t handle the temptation and will not let them eat crap commercial candy. What is supposed to be a fun, kid centered holiday turns into a nightmare. Last year we handed out candy at home and to my shock and delight the kids LOVED it. This year we are going to make a not very haunted house out of an easy up canopy and black sheets. The kids are going to be inside, dressed up passing out candy. I do pass out crap candy though. We have one of those neighborhoods that gets hundreds of trick or treaters and we can’t afford anything but the cheapest candy. I will have a bag ready for my kids this year with with safe treats and prizes.

Ready for trick or treating!

Ready for trick or treating!

But when Halloween falls in the middle of the week a party isn’t always practical. Our kids will be having a backyard camping party this weekend, but come Wednesday you know they’ll want to go trick-or-treating! Younger kids may be able to be distracted, but at 12 and 13, the kids know what’s up and want to go out, fill a pillowcase with candy, and check out the haunted houses!

Last year was the first year we let them go out by themselves. That is a huge right of passage for a tween kid that they didn’t want to miss! So they got dressed up, went out on the early side, and made a haul! (They had the option of going out again after bringing the candy back.)

Then, we turned right around and handed that candy out to the neighbor kids who came by, and finally left a bowl on the porch for whoever wanted to raid it. Unfortunately, there was still candy left over.

Plenty of kids won’t happily give up the candy they collect. In the past we’ve paid the kids money for their candy. A typical amount to pay is $1/lb. You can get creative, though. Some parents bake special halloween treats to swap out for the candy, or offer up a special privilege, outing, or a new video game.

Fun times at the corn maze

Fun times at the corn maze

Many dentists’ offices collect Halloween candy through the Halloween Candy Buy Back, which sends the candy as part of care packages to troops serving overseas. We had planned to give our left over candy away through one of these programs, but it sat in our house too long and started to dominate my thoughts like sugar does. So I ended up sticking it in the trash with dog poo on top so that I wouldn’t dive back in for it!

If you don’t want anyone to eat it, you can get creative and turn it into art! Here’s an idea Karen shared on our facebook page:

We save it all and use it to decorate a regular gingerbread house for a yearly contest, then display the house. Since it is not GF we can’t eat it, but we can enjoy looking at it thru the holiday season.

Enjoy the Season

Hay ride at the pumpkin patch

Hay ride at the pumpkin patch

There’s more to Halloween than just the trick or treating and the candy, though. It’s a time to celebrate the harvest and fall. Plenty of traditional Halloween activities are still there to enjoy. Our family makes an annual trip to a local farm for the corn maze, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, hay ride, and more!

We remember to have some high value snacks on hand, though, since they’ve always got treats we don’t eat for sale.

I hope you all have a happy, safe, spooky Halloween!

The kids' jack-o-lanterns

The kids’ jack-o-lanterns

For more on supporting your kids on special diets at the holidays and every day, check out these posts:

This post is part of Seasonal Celebration, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Wheat Free Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Cybele Pascal.

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4 comments to Halloween on a Special Diet

  • Alysse

    Great article with plenty of ideas for celebration that don’t involve eating it.

    A few other ideas: some families have the Candy Goblin visit. Their kids eat a few candies then put their basket out on Halloween night. The goblin comes and swaps the candy for a gift! This is fun and a great strategy when parents start this at a young age.

    My kids put their chocolate bars in a bag in the freezer and forget about it till summer. They eat some, trade with each other, and much of it ends up in the trash. Seems more like a novelty to play with it. I love the tip of keeping the weird “decorative” stuff to decorate ginger bread houses. We will be doing that.

    I got through last holiday season without eating candy or sugar, baking my own treats, but this year I’m eating some sugar and will really have to watch it. I relate to your words about not getting re-addicted. For some of us, it’s easier to eat NO sugar than to have it sometimes.


  • Thanks for the idea of honey sticks! Holiday’s can be so tricky and I never want my kids to feel like the odd man out too much. I’ve been passing out fruit leathers for a couple years but I was hoping to find something different! I’m trying to be the change I want to see in the world so am trying to pass out nutritious goodies, honey sticks this year! Maybe I’ll let the kids pick five candies (without gluten, diary and a few other things my daughter can not eat) to keep and do the whole goblin thing Alysse mentioned! That would be so cool for them to leave their candy like they would a tooth for the tooth fairy. Happy Halloween! Looks like you have some great kids! 🙂

  • This is a great (and timely) article! I’d love for you to share it on my new blog hop, {Wheat-Free Wednesday}! Hope to see you there! 🙂


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