Written by Brittany Scanniello, RD
It’s that time of year again! Millions of children are planning their Halloween costumes and dreaming of the heaps of candy they may soon possess. While I love the joy this holiday brings to littles near and far, as a Registered Dietitian, I don’t love all the sugar and potential isolation it causes due to food allergies, dietary intolerances, and the like. Kids with food allergies (and their parents) are forced to approach Halloween with caution. Here in the U.S. 1 in 13 children are living with food allergies, and many others are impacted daily due to food intolerances and/or sensitivities.
Allergic disease in children has increased significantly in recent years, now impacting up to 35% of all children.1 Food allergies and food intolerances are not one in the same. Food allergies may occur in response to any food and is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition. The top 9 most common food allergies include dairy, egg, peanut, soy, wheat, tree nut, shellfish, fish and sesame.2 Our body’s immune system has the job of identifying and then destroying germs (think viruses and bacteria) to prevent us from getting sick. A food allergy reaction occurs when one’s immune system overreacts to a harmless food protein, resulting in a potentially very dangerous reaction.
Food intolerances are also common, affecting nearly 15-20% of the total population.3 While food allergies result from an immune system reaction as outlined above, food intolerances are generally more felt in the digestive system – bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea. Foods commonly associated with food intolerances include dairy, gluten, various food colorings and preservatives.
Now, think of Halloween when many children go door-to-door collecting their bounty of sweets. Many of the typical candies are off-limits for kids with food allergies or intolerances. This may be due to their actual allergen being an included ingredient or because of the risk of cross-contamination during the manufacturing process. It is important to us, here at Supernola, to always offer a safe, trick-or-treat option that is inclusive to all children wandering to our porches in their adorable costumes each year.
Our goal is to make Halloween just as much fun for kids with food allergies as kids without food allergies. We have highlighted some of our favorite Halloween goodies that we will have stashed away for those Trick-or-Treaters on the 31st.
- Supernola on-the-go clusters are our “go-to” Halloween goodie giveaway. With 6 delicious flavors – all certified organic, plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, vegan friendly and peanut-free – we feel confident and comfortable for most children to enjoy safely!
- Amanda’s Own has a wide assortment of Halloween themed chocolates, including their Haunted Halloween box. Each box goes to support the nonprofit FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team). Free of top 9 allergens as well as gluten, corn and mustard.
- Free2b Foods offers their very own Bag o’ Treats Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter Cups. Available in an individually wrapped 18-count bag – free from top allergens as well as gluten.
- YumEarth has their new Halloween variety pack including an assortment of colorful, organic, chewy, fruit treats that are free of the top 9 allergens, high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes.
- If Halloween is not Halloween to you without the classic sugary candies, try the infamous Mike and Ike Spooky variety bag or, stash up on Ring Pops, Sour Patch Kids or Swedish Fish. All are free of the top 9 allergens including being gluten-free.
*Please note, these are merely suggestions that work for our Supernola family. Be sure to read all labels before sharing these treats with a child with a food allergy.
Bottom Line: Avoid candy and treats that do not have an ingredient label as parents with allergic kiddos will want to read those.
If you are a parent with a child with food allergies and are dreading this upcoming holiday, do not fret! We have outlined some tips when speaking to your child about their allergy and how to navigate this holiday safely.
- Stock up on safe treats or inexpensive trinkets to trade for any unsafe candies your child might receive while trick-or-treating. In my house, I call this the “Switch Witch” to keep with the Halloween theme. Make it fun – grab your witch hat, cape, pointy shoes and broom!
- Take the time of sorting through your child's candy as an opportunity to teach him or her about hidden allergens and reading labels (if age-appropriate).
- Consider making small and safe “goody bags” for neighbors to give to your child. Deliver the bags in advance and describe your child’s costume to your neighbors. Encourage your child to trick-or-treat at the houses in which you’ve delivered the bags.
- Enforce a “no eating while trick-or-treating” rule, so that you have time to review all food labels once your child returns home before he or she indulges.
- Always have an epinephrine auto-injector available, if prescribed.
- Keep in mind that the mini-size, fun-size, or bite-size version of candy may contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts. Make no assumptions and read all labels carefully.
- Keep the emphasis on the fun, rather than the candy.
- Remember that a candy that has been safe for your child in the past may now have different ingredients. Read the label, every time!
Lastly, we want to share on the Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal pumpkin project started in 2014 and continues to gain more and more momentum each and every year. The project encourages families to paint a single pumpkin teal and place it on their porch. Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep signals that, in addition to candy, you offer non-food trinkets and treats that are safe for all trick or treaters. A teal pumpkin is a simple way to make trick-or-treating safer and more inclusive for the 1 in 13 children living with food allergies, and many others impacted by intolerances and other conditions.
For some non-food Halloween favorites, see below:
- Stretchable Skeletons
- Halloween Punch Balloons
- Halloween Bookmarks
- Halloween Erasers
- Spider Rings
- Halloween Temporary Tattoos
- Halloween Stickers
- Halloween Rubber Duckies
Halloween can be hard for those kiddos with food allergies and intolerances. We hope you, just like us, take into consideration what goodies you choose to hand out and ensure there are some allergy-friendly options just in case. Happy Halloween and Trick-or-Treat!