Celebrating Halloween with Dietary Restrictions
Vegan, Gluten-free, or Low-sugar Diets at Halloween
Vegan? Gluten-free? Diabetic? Food allergies?
Halloween presents some challenges to families with special dietary needs.
But do not fret! There are many ways of enjoying Halloween, even if you cannot eat most of the trick-or-treat goodies.
Throw a Halloween Party!
Halloween parties are a great way to get into the "spirit" of Halloween while being able to control the kinds of foods that are served.
Having a Halloween party that meets your particular dietary needs allows you and your family to celebrate and enjoy treats with others who share (or will abide by) your food requirements. Have everyone bring a little something to eat - vegan, low-sugar, or gluten-free baked goods, pudding, candies, apple cider, popcorn, fruits, veggies, and other snacks.
Plan the kind of party that your guests will enjoy. There are many ideas online for putting together parties with various themes for different age groups. Think about having your guests come in costume, play games, or create arts and crafts projects. You may have a haunted house, tell ghost stories, dance, or sing karaoke. The sky's the limit for your party as you and your guests enjoy a good time together!
You can give out goodie bags, either with non-food items or with treats that conform to your dietary needs.
What is your special diet?
The Candy Plan, Part 1 - What to Do with the Trick-or-Treat Candy
The biggest concern that most of us with special diets have when it comes to Halloween is what to do about trick-or-treating. We want our kids to enjoy the experience, but we dread dealing with all of the candy that we can't let them eat.
It is critical to discuss the candy issue with your kids ahead of time. Make sure they understand that most - perhaps all - of the treats collected on Halloween night are not things they can eat because they are not vegan, will make them sick, or both.
Develop a plan prior to Halloween so that the kids aren't surprised when they have to surrender their booty. Will the treats that do not meet your dietary requirements be given to family or friends, taken to a parent's workplace, or thrown in the trash?
My kids give most of their non-vegan candy to Aunt Nicki and some to Grandmom and Grandad. They know this ahead of time, so they don't feel that candy is being taken away from them after Halloween; they can see as they collect the candy which pieces will be going to Aunt Nicki. (Aunt Nicki is quite pleased with this arrangement!)
Candy You Can Eat
Here are links to information about vegan, gluten-free, and low-carb candies.
The Candy Plan, Part 2
The Great Candy Exchange
Kids may feel like they're missing out on something special if they are required to give away their Halloween candy. Therefore, there is a second part to the Candy Plan.
Discuss with your children prior to trick-or-treating what they will get in exchange for the candy they cannot keep. Some ideas include trading the candy for homemade or store-bought treats that meet your dietary requirements - vegan, gluten-free, low-sugar, etc.
Or, instead of exchanging the candy for other sweets, they could perhaps be "treated" to a special activity or outing.
Or trade the goodies for a toy or a bit of money.
Think about what will work best for your family and give the kids a sense of getting something good and exciting.
There are plenty of cookbooks to address your dietary needs!
Here's a remarkable cookbook to celebrate Halloween gluten-free!
There are other cookbooks that cater to other special diets.
The Candy Plan, Part 3
What Will You Give to Others?
Think about what kinds of goodies you want to hand out to trick-or-treaters who come a-knocking at your door.
If you're giving out candy, make sure it's something that your family can eat, since there may be temptation for you or your kids to indulge.
There are some pretty fun non-edible treats to consider, as well. These are things that everyone can enjoy, regardless of any special dietary needs. How about stickers, tattoos, pencils, or other small goodies? One caveat: while you may not want to spend a lot of money, you should take care to get favors that are of reasonable quality so that they aren't just thrown into the trash when taken out of the Halloween bag.
Is That Vegan? Check one of these lists to find out!
Remember to contact your kids' teachers to find out if there will be a Halloween party at school and whether you need to provide appropriate goodies for your kids!
Stories to help explain dietary restrictions to kids
Here's a book written specifically for kids with diabetes that focuses on issues around Halloween.
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Enjoy your Halloween by making some changes in how you think about trick-or-treating.
Just because you have particular dietary restrictions does not mean you can't have fun on this ghoulish holiday!
Have fun and be healthy!