Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies

To be honest, I’ve never worried very much about trick-or-treating.  Dressing up in a fun costume and racing from house to house is fun in and of itself, regardless of whether you can eat all the candy once you get home.  Yes, my kids always receive some items that they can’t eat, but (nearly) everything is individually wrapped so contamination risk is relatively low.

Our evening usually goes something like this:

Trick or Treating, 2013

After dinner, we all dress up and pound the pavement.  We typically leave a cauldron of candy outside our front door while we’re out.  Our neighborhood is interesting–not many houses are open for business (probably between 1/4 and 1/3 have their lights on) but those that are open give out candy by the handful.  As a result, after two blocks, the pumpkin buckets are full and it’s time to head back.

The unsorted haul, 2012

Once we’re home, we let the kids pick out three pieces to eat (which we clear before they can open them.)  Then we do a quick scan of their candy, looking for the few items that nobody in the house can (or is willing to) eat.  If any more trick-or-treaters come by, we hand that candy back out.

Once the boys are in bed, hubby and I spread out all the candy and start sorting.  We usually group all the different types of candy together so we can get a better look at it all.  We read labels, pull out all the candy that neither boy can eat (or that has no ingredient statement at all), and swap some items that Zax can’t eat over to Kal’s supply.

Even after everything dangerous has been removed, we’re still left with way more candy than we’re willing to let the boys eat.  Halloween candy lasts for months in our house–we allow them to choose it as a dessert option, but usually limit them to three items at a time (two if something they choose is exceptionally large.)  Years ago, I got tired of the less popular items lasting until June and decided that we would make an effort to keep the volume under control.  So hubby and I remove more items from the piles.  We take out the items they aren’t fond of, and reduce the rest until we feel that everything will be gone before Valentine’s Day candy gets added to the stock.  Some day, we will involve the boys in this decision-making process.  For now, we just make the executive decisions.

So what do we do with the candy we’ve removed?  Well, hubby and I keep some of it.  We do not keep our house strictly allergen free, although we segregate and have very firm rules about cleaning hands and surfaces that allergens touch.  (This also applies to Kal when he eats things Zax can’t eat.)

For the rest of the candy, we discovered this really great program a few years ago called Halloween Candy Buy Back.  It’s an initiative to keep kids (and their teeth) healthier.  You bring your unwanted candy to a participating dentist’s office, and the office pays your child $1 per pound of candy.  Many offices have other goodies as well.  The offices then send the candy to Operation Gratitude, which mails packages to deployed service members.  So our kids get cash for the candy they can’t eat (plus their surplus supply) and our troops get a care package.  Win-win!

** We have a firm “No Candy Until We Get Home” rule while the kids are trick-or-treating, but this rule extends well beyond allergies.  Even my husband remembers this rule from his childhood, and he doesn’t have any food allergies.  What he did have were tales of the rare sicko putting razor blades in candy, so his parents always inspected everything before he was allowed to eat it.  Now that we’re the parents, we inspect for open wrappers, allergens, and (because we live in Colorado) marijuana edibles.  It’s just a safe thing to do, no matter what your kids can and can’t eat.

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!


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