tootsie popsIt’s that time of year when the skeletons, zombies, ghosts and sugar fiends come out of hiding. Kids are thinking about costumes and parents are dreading the influx of candy into their children and inevitably, their own diets.

Being gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan or nut-free brings another added level of anxiety to our homes during this holiday. I don’t want to deprive my child of taking part in the holiday but I also know that certain Halloween candy really isn’t safe for our family. All parents should carefully inspect the candy their children bring home for unsealed packages or suspicious contents but parents of children with food restrictions also have to read labels, understand manufacturing processes and constantly look up lists of approved candy for their child. This can get exhausting.

Maybe this is the year you change your tactics. I’ve keep hearing of creative ways parents have come up with to let their children dress up, go trick-or-treating but then avoid the candy consumption portion of the holiday. Here are some of the creative ways:

  • The Candy Fairy: This is similar to the tooth fairy idea. The child puts their Halloween candy out for the Candy Fairy before bed and in the morning there is a special surprise left in place of the candy.
  • The CD Swap: For older children who may not buy the Candy Fairy routine anymore, I know a mom who swaps candy for music CDs or downloads for her older children.
  • The Donation – this one can take on a variety of different forms.
    • Each year my doorbell is run by trick-or-treaters collecting for UNICEF. Have your child dress up and collect money for a good cause instead of candy.
    • We have a friend whose child does not eat sugar. His mom may buy him a couple special treats that he can eat for his Halloween candy but anything he gets from trick-or-treating he just gives away to other friends.
    • Another mom I know volunteers at a soup kitchen. Her children are allowed to keep some safe candy for themselves and the rest goes with her to the soup kitchen. In addition, she even posts posters around the office so she can gather unused candy from the rest of us. This is a win:win for everyone. The kids don’t keep all their candy; the people in the office don’t gain the extra pounds; and the people she serves at the soup kitchen get a holiday treat they don’t usually see.
  • The Disappearing Act: If your kids are like mine, they are more interested in the trick-or-treating than they are in the candy. At my house all candy goes into their “boxes” which are stored out of reach and usually out of sight. I sort through their initial candy to weed out the stuff that needs to get thrown away then the rest goes in the box. There is a limit to how much they can eat each day and also a limit to how long we’ll keep it around. Trust me when I tell you that we will have Halloween candy still at Christmas. Putting the candy out of sight keeps it out of mind, too, and allows me to further filter out the pieces I don’t want them eating. There are times I have to say no to a request but most days they just forget about it and the candy sits around until it’s stale and we throw it away.

Some years I’ve been tempted to take it to the extreme and not even give out candy. Many non-candy, non-food options are available these days, like stickers or pencils, but so far I’ve only done this for classroom parties. I can’t quite bring myself to being the house on the block that gives away toothbrushes at Halloween.

Do you have other creative ways to keep your kids from ingesting pounds of Halloween candy? Do you do a different swap from the ones I mentioned above? How do you ensure that the candy they collect is gluten-free and safe for them? How do you choose what your house is going to pass out to trick-or-treaters?