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Going Gluten-FreeOctober 12, 2010

Trick or Treat!

I’ve never liked Halloween. As a child I was spooked by costumes and scary revelry. In college, I begrudgingly dressed up to appease my Halloween-loving roommate.

It wasn't until I became a mom that I appreciated the holiday for the joy it brings, when I watch my children parade around excitedly in their costumes. I also love making fall-themed crafts with them, helping pick out pumpkins and baking fun treats. Still, the danger the Halloween candy poses for my food-allergic 7-year-old son (he’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy) casts a shadow over the season.

A tasty new dessert is always a sure way to get me into the spirit of ghosts, goblins, bats, pumpkins, trickery and candy. So when I spotted Cybele Pascal's recipe for Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free Red Velvet Cupcakes on Living Without's website (LivingWithout.com), I knew the festively decorated treats were just what I needed. Sure enough, after devouring one of those cupcake and accepting compliments from my family, I began thinking about costumes, crafts and the fun times ahead.

Every Halloween, we follow a plan to ensure Joseph and my 2-year-old daughter Pamela have fun and stay safe. The kids attend a food-free Halloween celebration put on by our local food-allergy support group, NC FACES (Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely), where they have a blast dressing up, playing games and trick-or-treating for small trinkets.

Then on Halloween night, the children don their costumes and collect treats from the neighbors, always careful not to touch the items dropped in their bags. That night when they climb into bed, they leave their bags of treats for the Halloween Witch, who swoops in while they’re asleep and replaces their candy with toys. The next morning, they wake up gleeful, excited to see what surprises the Halloween Witch has brought them.

I’ll never love Halloween, but I do relish sharing these fun times with my children. How do you celebrate Halloween and manage the risks of trick or treating?

Comments (6)

My 7 1/2 yr old son is intolerant to dairy and gluten; my 5 yr old son to food dyes, and my 3 1/2 yr old daughter is ana to dairy, seafood, shellfish, palm, coconut, sunflower, safflower, via ingestion/airborne/contact - and severely allergic to wheat/gluten, peanut, soy, honey, chamomile (all sunflower family), sesame, and many EA's and chemicals. Last year we started a new tradition of a family Halloween party. We let the kids dress up in the morning and we took photos. We rent some fun Halloween movies for them and let them play in their costumes. We decorate the house together, and plan our dinner. Before dinner we send the kids out to the yard to find their pumpkin buckets, which we've filled with Halloween crayons and coloring books, a few small toys, some safe candy (which will be Enjoy Life Bars, Stretch Island Fruit Strips, and ClifKids Fruit Ropes - and some boxes of raisins). Their daddy dresses in his hunting camo and waits in the yard for them to find him. When they come inside they get to eat a treat or two while my mom and I make dinner. We make some "spooky" foods, such as spaghetti and meatballs, gf breadsticks in the shape of bones, Knox Blox made with cranberry or grape juice, cranberry juice, and a gf pumpkin spice cake for desert. We eat dinner by candlelight, then watch a movie in the dark as a family. The kids are not at all sorry to not trick or treat (it helps that I homeschool I think), but are super excited about our family party and tell all of their friends and neighbors about it. I hope to continue this tradition as they grow.

Posted by: mandiesmama | October 14, 2010 9:59 PM    Report this comment

My son just turned 2 and last year Halloween wasn't an issue. First of all, we just found out he had food allergies this past January, and secondly, he was younger and didn't notice that the candy went to his older sister or mom and dad. This year, I started to wonder what to do because he knows what candy is and gets only safe candy from me. Every year, I've taken my children to my husband's place of work and just trick-or-treated there. I was planning to have my husband plant "safe" candy and treats at different offices so my son could actually receive things he could enjoy. My daughter, who will be 5, claims she will bravely trick-or-treat this year, but she hates the scary stuff about Halloween. I think as the years go by, I may have to adopt the Halloween Witch or the Great Pumpkin idea. Thanks.

Posted by: Nora M | October 14, 2010 5:23 PM    Report this comment

We have a traditional visit from The Great Pumpkin (inspired by Peanuts, no less) who leaves behind Halloween themed trinkets, toys and essential trick-or-treating gear, a.k.a. pumpkin bucket or candy collecting bag and glow sticks. Our son has Eosinophilic Esophagitus and at the height of his illness was allergic to 42 different foods and was on a severely restricted diet. We had to be creative in order to keep him safe and to continue the tradition of celebrating Halloween for his older sister. Since then we have been able to slowly reintroduce some foods and now have some candy options, however, he still suffers from life threatening allergies to dairy, soy, peanuts and tree nuts, in conjunction with 25 other food allergies, so the tradition continues! We also do a candy exchange where we trade most of the candy collected (some safe ones he can keep) for either safe candy that we buy in abundance or he (and his sister) can now "trade in" for something bigger, his choice being anything of the Lego variety. Through the years my kids have eagerly anticipated the arrival of The Great Pumpkin and one year, our daughter was telling her friends about his upcoming visit and they had never heard of him. Puzzled, she questioned me later about whether or not he was real and I responded that, like Santa Clause, there is something special about believing in something so magical that brings happiness and joy and that she could believe in The Great Pumpkin for as long as she wanted. Kids who live with food allergies often miss out on "magical" moments because they do not have the freedom of just being. Giving back a little "magic", especially at Halloween, feels pretty good!

Posted by: Kileen N | October 14, 2010 3:42 PM    Report this comment

We've done a similar thing for the last 14 years, but we call her the Sugar Sprite. My kids give their candy to the Sugar Sprite before bed (similar to something like leaving cookies out for Santa) and wake up to wrapped gifts from her. They love getting to go trick-or-treatng and then also waking up to a mini Christmas. :)

Posted by: Kelli | October 14, 2010 3:28 PM    Report this comment

I like your Halloween witch idea! My son is allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts, so when we come in from trick-or-treating, he is allowed to keep anything he can safely eat (anything that has a label I can read). Then I trade the rest for some pre-bought junk like chips, pretzels, lollypops and small trinkets. He likes that he gets to have fun trick-or-treating and still gets junk food that is safe.

Posted by: Unknown | October 14, 2010 11:36 AM    Report this comment

I have never liked Halloween either because my oldest has had sugar issues all along but was never diagnosed with an allergy. I just have to say I love the Halloween Witch and you are so smart to think of it! Your kids will remember that forever! Great idea.

Posted by: Sheila C | October 14, 2010 10:31 AM    Report this comment

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