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Published on October 17, 2014

Trick or Treat, Give Me Something Safe to Eat

10/17/14Halloween kids and candy

Halloween can be complicated for children who have food allergies or are prone to overstimulation.

If your family is one of the millions with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder, a food allergy or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a bit of preparation can help keep the holiday fun and safe.

Candy Safety First

Food allergies now affect one in 13 children. The good news is, awareness is also on the rise, but free-flowing Halloween candy may still pose a challenge. Three of the most common triggers—peanuts, tree nuts and milk—are found in many types of Halloween candy.

Before your little ghost or goblin goes trick-or-treating, set some ground rules. It can be easy to get swept up in the fun, but remind them that food safety is always a priority. Food sharing is still a big no-no, and you’ll need to inspect all their treats before they are eaten.

If you know the neighbors or loved ones you’ll be visiting to trick or treat, drop off allergy-safe goodies before the big night. Have a backup bundle of nonfood prizes or swaps on hand to prevent disappointment. If your child is young enough, set up a candy fairy station where non-safe items can be magically exchanged overnight.

Stay vigilant as a parent. Brush up on your label reading skills since you may come across new items that need further investigation and carry an emergency medical kit to immediately combat allergic reactions with you just in case.

 

Avoid Overstimulation

The flurry of activity, costumes, food and people that accompanies Halloween may be difficult for children with ASD or ADHD.

To prepare your child with autism for Halloween, try talking about how the evening will go or coloring pictures of the two of you going trick-or-treating. Choose a costume that is comfortable and have your child try it on before the big day. Know your child’s limits. If big crowds are a trigger, host a smaller gathering at home. If he or she is not comfortable in the dark, check out a daytime or indoor event.

Many children with ADHD or ASD are on restricted diets to help manage symptoms. Consider planning with friends and family to host an event where sugar, casein and gluten are off the menu, if those items aren’t in your family’s diet.

Having a good plan will help minimize meltdowns and keep your family well this Halloween.

 

Healthy Handout Alternatives

Filled with sugar, chemicals, artificial flavors and colors—Halloween candy can be pretty terrifying all on its own. This year, skip the candy entirely and instead hand out age-appropriate prizes, such as toys with lights or sidewalk chalk. Or give out healthier alternatives, including:

  • Dried cranberries
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Mini granola bars
  • Organic applesauce
  • Pumpkin seed packets
  • Raisins
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Sugar-free gum

Sources: cdc.gov, kidswithfoodallergies.org, cdc.gov, insideadhd.org, nybg.org, foodallergy.org, fda.gov, autismspeaks.org

 
Ready to get your family’s diet back on track after Halloween? Check out KishHealth System’s Healthy Eating classes!
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