Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween With a Gluten Free Child

For most kids, Halloween is one of the best holidays of the year.  What could be better than being allowed to dress up as your favourite character, stay up late and eat as much candy as you can handle?  Not much.

I know that I loved Halloween as a kid, and to be honest, still do. 

I love making my house look spooky, but not so scary that the littlest kids are afraid to come up to the door. 

I love deciding what costume to wear and carving pumpkins.

I love the TV specials and movies. 

I love the excuse to eat candy and not  feel guilty about it. 

But as the mom of a kid who can't eat anything containing gluten or dairy, I'm also a little bit anxious.  Last year, my son had no idea what was in his trick or treat bag, so he didn't notice when I simply removed anything that he couldn't eat, essentially leaving his bag almost empty.  This year he has a better idea of how things work, and it won't be so easy to pull the wool over his eyes.  I want him to enjoy the holiday, but I also want him to be safe, without passing on my anxiety to him.

Here's how I plan to do it:

Daycare:  My son's daycare provider is really good about making sure that he doesn't eat anything he shouldn't, but sometimes this means that he misses out.  Every Halloween, other children in the class bring in small bags of candy for their friends, and the daycare also provides some treats for the children.  Last year, my son wasn't able to open his until I got there to pick him up because the staff wanted to be sure that what he ate was safe.  While this was a relief for me, it wasn't so much fun for him to watch other kids break into their candy while he couldn't. 

This year, I'll be providing him with a little bag of assorted candy that the staff can give to him to eat.  I'll also be asking ahead of time if there will be any special baking or desserts served at their Halloween party.  I'll be providing him with a comparable item so that he doesn't feel left out. 

Halloween Night:  This one's a bit trickier.  It's not practical (or polite) to try and vet the candy as you go.  Instead, I'll be buying replacement candy for when he gets home.  We've bought most of our Halloween candy already, and it's a mixture of candy, chips, gummies, lollipops, etc.  Some of it is gluten free, and some isn't.  I've separated a few gluten free items from each package and put them aside.  I also bought some candy that I know my son likes and can eat and put it completely aside.

When he gets home, I'll be sorting through his candy like all parents should- getting rid of anything that is open or that doesn't look safe for whatever reason.  Unlike all parents though, I'll also be checking for items containing gluten and /or dairy.   It's during this process that I'll be making the switch.  Instead of just taking treats away or replacing something with random candy, there will be a bowl with a variety of candy that he can eat.  For each piece we have to remove, my son will be able to choose a replacement.  I'm hoping that rather than feeling like a punishment or a deprivation for him, that it will instead be kind of a fun game where he gets to choose.

The candy we take away can then be put back in the bowl to hand out to other children who come to the door, or we can donate what's left to our neighbours children or bring it in to work.  I'm crossing my fingers that this all runs smoothly. 

How do you handle gluten free Halloween at your house? 

Check back tomorrow for my tips on having a stress-free GF Halloween, including some easy to prepare treats and where to find a printable list of gluten free candy to use as a reference when sorting through candy.


  1. Hi Kathleen. I hear you about the stress of Hallowe'en for families with food allergies/intolerances -- it's so important to ensure our children's safety, but we still want them to have fun! My youngest son is intolerant to gluten, dairy, eggs, and peanuts, which eliminates so many of the treats he collects while trick-or-treating. This is how we deal with Hallowe'en at our house: .

    It sounds like you've got a great plan in place for your son for Hallowe'en -- I hope he has a very fun time! :)

  2. I love your plan to ensure your little fellow has a fun and safe Halloween. Making a game of choosing his candy once you arrive back from trick-or-treating is a great idea.