How to Navigate Trick or Treat Time with a Gluten Free Child

by Rachel Sircy

image1It’s that (frustrating) time of year again when everyone in the world seems to want to give our kids candy. The thing is, this candy-giving-extravaganza seems to start at Halloween and doesn’t seem to really end until after Easter. Besides the fact that candy is unhealthy and can cause dental problems, diabetes, etc., those of you out there who have celiac or gluten-sensitive children probably dread this time of year because the likelihood that your child will be given something unsafe to eat goes through the roof. Trick-or-Treat has a whole different meaning to those of us who have (or whose children have) food allergies and intolerances. While it may not be possible for every parent to monitor everything that your child is given to eat during this candy-crazed time of year, there are some preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your child is as safe as possible.

The first thing is for you, as a parent to make sure that you know what candies/treats/etc. are safe for your child to eat. You can begin your research here. Once you feel certain that you know what is and is not safe for your child to eat, you can decide how to proceed. My family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but if yours does and you plan on trick-or-treating, you have several options to try. If your neighborhood has an HOA or a Neighborhood Watch, this might be the place to bring up the fact that your child has a food allergy/intolerance, and to request that your neighbors try to pass out safe candy. Be sure to have a written list prepared for the HOA or Neighborhood Watch to pass out. If you’re in a community where you know your neighbors, you can personally give them a list of the safe treats for your child and ask that they be mindful of what they give your youngster. Another thing to keep in mind in HOA and Neighborhood Watch communities is the possibility of having a different night for allergy sufferers to trick-or-treat on or creating a different neighborhood-wide activity that would be inclusive of everyone. Consider this zany alternative to Halloween trick-or-treating that has been in place in Des Moines, Iowa since the 1940s.

If it’s not possible to pass out a list of safe treats, or if you will be trick or treating in an area where you don’t know the people who’ll be passing out the candy, you can speak to your child ahead of time and let them know that they will have to give you any unsafe candy that they receive. You can then decide what kind of treat you’d like to replace it with, whether you pay them a penny for each piece of unsafe candy or replace the candy with safe choices that you have already stocked at home. You can also take all of the unsafe candy and either find a local business (these are usually dentists, so check with your dental office first) who will buy the candy back from your child, or you can donate the unsafe candy to anyone who was unable to go trick-or-treating.

If you need to have even more control of what your child eats, as in the case of a severe allergy, it may be best to avoid trick-or-treating altogether. To make sure that your child doesn’t feel left out, you can (if time and money allow) throw an allergy-friendly party yourself for your child. If parties aren’t your thing, but you don’t feel it’s safe to allow others to give your child candy, why not try to adapt classic kid-friendly activities, such as Easter egg hunts. Why not do a candy-filled egg hunt in the fall and allow your child to dress in costume? Just remember to keep it fun!

As is the case with all food-allergy sufferers, it’s important that close friends and family understand, in detail, what your child can and cannot be exposed to. Make sure to share this information with your child’s school as well, just in case there are any parents of other children who may want to provide treats to the class, or in case the school has its own trick-or-treat or holiday party.

Safe eating, everyone!

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