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No Tricks! Treats for All Kids

Even Those With Dietary Restrictions

Holiday celebrations can be tough, especially when revelers have a food allergy, gluten intolerance or other special dietary restriction. Children can be especially impacted by this, particularly on Halloween. Here are a few ways to navigate the situation so all kids can still enjoy the holiday.

Offer Alternatives

About 1 in 13 children in the United States are affected by food allergies. Most people think of peanut allergies first, but peanuts are just one of eight major food allergens that account for more than 90 percent of food allergy reactions. Along with peanuts, eggs and milk are the most common causes of food allergies in children, and all three are commonly found in candy. So if you’re having a party or handing out candy on Halloween, consider offering candy alternatives, such as fruit snacks, raisins or snack-sized pretzels.

Northwestern Medicine Allergist Deeba Masood, MD suggests candy necklaces and most gummies for those with peanut or tree nut allergies. For those with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance, Dr. Masood suggests certain chocolates or taffy candy. If you also want to offer candy for those who can have it, be sure to keep these alternatives in a separate bowl to avoid contamination.

Teal Pumpkins

The Teal Pumpkin Project, spearheaded by Food Allergy Research Education (FARE), was created to help raise awareness and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters on Halloween. If you’re willing to hand out non-food treats, such as stickers, crayons or other novelty items, display a pumpkin that’s painted teal rather than orange. If your child has food sensitivities, look for teal pumpkins in the neighborhood to find houses that you know will offer treats they can enjoy.

Plan Ahead

For those with diabetes, sweets and other desserts do not have to be off-limits. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, which can result in increased blood glucose levels. Counting carbohydrates every time you eat is a vital part of maintaining normal blood glucose levels. This will also help determine how much insulin to take.

For small children still learning how to manage their diabetes, make sure to explain the limitations and set expectations about candy intake in order to avoid disappointment later. Keep blood glucose levels stable by staying on a regular meal plan, including snacks, prior to trick-or-treating. Afterwards, portion out candy and take proper precautions on carbohydrate intake.

Sweet Substitutions

All little ghouls and ghosts can enjoy healthier treats, too! Try creating a veggie skeleton, spider web smoothie bowl or ghostly bananas — if you dare. You can also use a cookie cutter to create spooky shapes with fruits, vegetables and sandwiches for lunches.

Finally, remember that holiday activities do not have to involve food. Plan Halloween crafts or a movie night to end the day’s festivities on a positive note.

Deeba Masood, MD
Deeba Masood, MD
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Health System Clinician, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Allergy and Immunology
  • Secondary Specialty Emergency Medicine
  • Secondary Specialty Hospital Medicine
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