Halloween is supposed to be a fun and magical time, but when you have celiac disease or a child with celiac disease, Halloween candy can be a gluten minefield, and maybe even the scariest part of Halloween.
I also have a child with celiac disease and here are some tips to make it a little easier:
- I talk to my child about common candies that are not gluten-free (GF) (some common ones: Milky Way, Kit Kat, Twizzlers) and which ones are, then they can try to select the ones that are safe when they are offered a choice of candy at the door. Note that many chocolates contain MALT. Malt comes from barley and is not safe for people with celiac disease. Lindt Chocolates for instance contain malt.
- For younger children, I would suggest walking them right up to the door and help them choose from the bowl.
- I tell my kids not to eat any candy until we have had a chance to go through them. I go through the candy with them when we get home from trick or treating. This way, they will see which ones are GF and which are not. This is a great way to practice label reading.
- Always read labels on everything!!!
- Keep in mind that sometimes certain products that are usually GF may not be in special editions or different sizes. For instance, chocolate bars often vary in ingredients in small vs. a large size.
- Check with manufacturers directly if you cannot find the information on the label. Do not rely on lists or publications of GF candy as ingredients frequently change. Manufacturers can change the ingredients in a product at any time, and a list may not be updated frequently enough to reflect these changes.
Reading the label
The most efficient way to find out if a product is GF is to read the ingredient label carefully:
- Look for a gluten-free label/statement.
- Foods that are NOT labeled gluten-free must be investigated on an individual basis by contacting the manufacturer by calling, going to their website FAQ section or emailing them.
- Read ingredients carefully for wheat, barley, and rye derived ingredients, Wheat is required to be listed on the label, but barley and rye are not. Find more information on labeling here: https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/manufactured-in-shared-facility/ and here: https://nationalceliac.org/blog/email-newsletters/confusion-about-food-labeling/
Hold the sugar overload!
My kids usually come home with a lot of candy, literally pounds of it! Everything is OK in moderation, and of course kids should be able to enjoy some candy on Halloween, but not pounds of candy!
- We give the “Switch Witch” most of the candy. They get to keep their most favorite candy (GF), and the rest is given to the witch in exchange for an item that they have wished for. The Switch Witch comes at night, takes the candy, and leaves a gift. This is great, because I will get rid of gluten-containing candy, as well as excess candy that my kids definitely won't need. Read more here about the Switch Witch.
- Some dentists and local businesses take leftover candy in a buy-back program/exchange for a prize or participate in Treats for Troops. Check with your local dentist for details.
Consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. This is an initiative by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). To participate, you put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep and offer non-edible items, such as little trinkets, which are safer for kids with sensitivities and allergies, as well as healthier for every child. This year they are offering a map where you can look up participants near you, and you can even add yourself to their map, so other kids with food allergies/celiac disease can trick or treat at your house: https://www.foodallergy.org/our-initiatives/awareness-campaigns/teal-pumpkin-project/map
Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.