There’s nothing scarier to the mother of a child with food allergies on Halloween, or any day, than an allergic reaction. Before I became an “allergy mom,” I also would dole out my favorite candies, regardless of ingredients, to neighborhood trick-or-treaters (and yes, dietitians dole out candy!) to share with children the joys of including some sweet treats in their lives in the name of tradition. However, now that I have a son with food allergies, I’d love for him to partake in the classic American activity of door-to-door snacking but in a way that keeps him safe and me without seventeen panic attacks about stray nuts or sesame seeds.
According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), 85 million Americans live with food allergies. An estimated 8% of children (about 1 in 13) have a food allergy, according to the CDC. While a child can technically be allergic to any foods, the “Top 9” allergens are those most likely to provoke an allergic reaction. And allergic reactions can be fatal. Top 9 allergens are often found in traditional Halloween candy and treats and include peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, milk, wheat, soy, egg, fish, and shellfish. Even a trace amount of an allergen can cause a reaction, like cross-contamination in cookware/serveware, residue on hands, and even kisses. This is why Halloween, with its manifold treats, candies, treat-laden parties, and tradition of candy-swapping and trading can be fatal and a nightmare for parents.
The Teal Pumpkin Project
Be an allergy ally and participate in FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project. According to FARE, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a simple way to make trick-or-treating safer and more inclusive for the one in thirteen children living with food allergies, and many others impacted by intolerances and other conditions. 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.
Consider offering allergy-friendly Halloween treats from Top 9 free brands like Enjoy Life or Yum Earth. Offer fruits with peels, like oranges and bananas, or offer non-food treats. Consider stickers, glow sticks, bubbles, pencils and markers, whistles, balls, finger puppets, mini slinkies, antibacterial gel (scent-free; children with food allergies are often sensitive to chemicals), hair ties, mini hairbrushes or combs, mini flashlights, Halloween-themed toys, coins, vampire teeth, playing cards, bookmarks, notepads, or my personal favorite: design coupons for “a free hug and a scream” kids can disseminate to others.
Allergy-Friendly Halloween Party Tips
If you’re hosting a party and need ideas for some allergy-friendly fare — a registered dietitian who specializes in food allergies (like me!) can help you design an allergy-friendly menu to accommodate your guests. While everyone has their own set of allergies and needs, in general, you’re safe with using gluten-free oat flour instead of traditional white flour, using coconut milk or unsweetened flax milk instead of regular milk, using chickpea liquid or JUST EGG instead of eggs, and using pumpkin seed butter/sunflower seed butter instead of peanut or other nut butters. Instead of hummus, which does contain sesame seed paste, you can make and serve hummus without sesame seeds, using the liquid from the chickpea can instead, or sunflower seed butter.
You can ask a registered dietitian (or any allergy mom) to screen ingredient lists of candies or other store-bought foods for you as well.
Have a happy, healthy, and safe Halloween!
We want to hear from you! Do you have plans for allergy-friendly Halloween treats or festivities? Share your ideas, comments, and questions below!