By Kathy Franklin
Halloween can be a difficult time for parents of food-allergic children. In my experience, the anticipation of problems can be far worse than the reality. With a little advance planning, your children can enjoy the trick-or-treating and the parties as much as their non-allergic friends.
Spend some time in the candy aisles this month, checking ingredients. The small versions of many candies often have different ingredients than their full-size versions, so that a candy that your child regularly eats may not be safe for him in the Halloween size. Make a list of several of the most popular offerings, with some Yes and No items that your family can familiarize themselves with ahead of time.
Make sure your child understands there’s absolutely no eating until the bag of loot comes home and is checked carefully, unless an item is specifically okayed by Mom or Dad. Bring along some safe snacks and candy as a temporary substitute. Be prepared to spend some time that night, and the following day, checking ingredients on the websites, and calling the 800 numbers provided by most companies.
My children’s elementary school once did a collection of extra candy for homeless children. The kids were encouraged to bring in a portion of their bounty to share with the less fortunate. You can do the same, with or without a formal program at your school or church. Any treats that are a “no-no” or a “not-sure” can go right into the designated giveaway bag.
For any Halloween activity, trick-or-treating or parties, have your child wear gloves to avoid accidentally touching any allergens. It’s the one day of the year no one will think it’s odd to wear gloves indoors! It’s so easy to find gloves that will match any costume; you may already have a pair at home that will work.
Halloween celebrations do not have to be all about food and candy. The best Halloween party I ever attended had awesome decorations and several games for kids. The children lined up to tell a joke or riddle, or perform a trick, to ‘win’ a glow-in-the dark necklace. Everyone had fun, and the kids were much more interested in the glow-in-the dark items than in the food. They actually ate carrots, happily, while waiting their turns in line.
Another fun family activity can be to walk or drive around your neighborhood to seek out and enjoy all the decorated homes. There’s one block near me that does up Halloween like you wouldn’t believe, with ghosts, skeletons, fabulous pumpkins and all sorts of creative displays, complete with sound effects; just walking down that street is a glorious holiday experience. It’s fun to look at all the visitors’ crazy costumes, and to show off your own. Perhaps a little research will turn up some visual Halloween delights near you.
A friend recalls attending a wonderful old-fashioned Halloween party that involved arts & crafts, and bobbing for apples, plus a variant, trying to bite an apple hanging from a cord. The fun was in the activities and the togetherness. And the spooky décor, of course.
My favorite part of Halloween is that it serves as an excuse to order from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. They carry absolutely delicious peanut- and tree nut-free chocolates, and a few other candies, too. Some of the offerings are also egg-free; all are sesame-free and coconut-free. The ingredient lists for everything are available on the website. Vermont Nut Free is a staple of our Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations. ( www.vermontnutfree.com or 888-468-8373.)
FAAN members can get a 10% discount on Vermont Nut Free orders. The coupon is available at foodallergy.com on FAAN’s e-Discount page, which also offers a discount on Divvies, another great source for allergy-free candies. I love their large gumballs. Divvies are available online at divvies.com, as well as in many retail stores, including Whole Foods.
One more good resource is kateelayne.com in Nashville. They will ship decorated cookies (and their yummy Sugardoodles and Cinnadoodles). Nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and peanut-free!!