Trick-Or-Treating with Food Allergies

For my family, the scariest part about Halloween this year won’t be the skeletons hanging in doorways and the zombies roaming the street. Instead, it’ll be the bucket of treats my kids collect when they go door-to-door trick or treating.

My 2.5 year old son, L, is allergic to corn. That’s the biggie— corn and all it’s derivatives. He is also allergic to eggs, and sensitive to peanuts and cocoa bean. He is also dye-free.

These allergies pretty much ensure he won’t be able to eat any of the candy he collects. All mainstream candy bars are loaded with corn syrup, so they’re out. Gummy candies not only contain corn syrup, but also lots of food dye. Even a plain old chocolate bar is made from cocoa beans, of course, so that’s out too. And lollipops are loaded with corn and also have food dye.

Last year was probably more difficult on me than it was on him. He was only 19 months old and I was able to pretty easily switch out the candy he collected for some safe treats (safe crackers, fruits, etc.) and little toys. He hardly even noticed.

But a lot has changed in the last year. L understands a lot more about his allergies now. Even I understand more. He knows that when we go to the ice cream shop, he brings along his special safe ice cream in his own special cup. He knows that when we have dinner at a friend’s house, his meal is packed in mommy’s bag. He knows he can’t share his friend’s snacks on play dates unless he asks me first. When we’re shopping and he sees me reading label after label, he always asks, “does that have corn in it?” He’s very good-natured about it, for the most part. Sometimes it does get frustrating for him, of course, but he understands that eating things with corn in it makes him feel yucky, and that’s good enough for now.

So Halloween is a bit of a daunting holiday for me, as the parent of a kid who is basically allergic to candy. Armed with a credit card, I scoured the internet for safe candy last week. Unfortunately, there really is no such thing as a processed candy that is completely corn-free. Fortunately for us, L is what is considered “corn-lite” and usually doesn’t react to cross-contamination.

I spent $30 (!!) on a handful of little chocolates (80% dark) he could have. Some are wrapped in orange foil shaped like pumpkins. I also found a bag of lollipops that are not made with corn syrup. Very expensive, but worth it for a treat he only gets once a year. I also plan to buy some small favor-type toys and lots of temporary tattoos, which he loves.

My plan is to switch out L’s candy booty on the night of Halloween. I thought about trying to “trick” him, but I just don’t think that’ll work and I want to be honest with him. So we’ve been talking with him about how he can go trick-or-treating with his sister and his friends, but the candy probably won’t be safe. And we’ve been talking to him about how that is really OK, because we will have a bunch of safe, delicious candy and treats waiting for him back at home.

He’s very excited now about his “safe candy” and has been checking the mail every day waiting for it to arrive.

Of course, he’s only 2. I’m fully expecting him to feel frustrated and disappointed about not being able to eat the candy he collects, but I’m hoping that with a little encouragement, he’ll be happy with the toys and tattoos and safe candy waiting at home.

Another good idea for parents of allergy kids on Halloween night is to bring a handful of treats —either candy or pieces of safe fruit— while out trick-or-treating. If your little one gets hungry for a snack, or sees another kid already digging into the chocolate in his bag, you’ll be able to pull out a safe treat and continue on your way.

I’m really loving “The Teal Pumpkin Project,” initiated by FARE, which encourages people to provide a non-candy alternative to trick-or-treaters. Participants place a teal pumpkin on their porch to alert parents of a ‘safe’ house for their kids. We’ll definitely be participating and we’ll offer both candy and non-candy treats for the kids who come to our door. I really encourage you to do the same! Some great options are stickers, crayons, notepads, necklaces and erasers.

7 Responses to Trick-Or-Treating with Food Allergies

  1. I’m so excited to participate in The Teal Pumpkin Project this year!! We’ve got all sorts of non-food goodies ready to go. The husband even said, “I love all the toys you got!” so hopefully the kiddos will too. ;) As much as I love candy (and I do *love* it) we all eat enough junk. Next year, I’m seriously considering getting no candy at all and going with all “teal pumpkin” approved fun things! Plus…then there is nothing around the house for us to eat! ;)

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