Halloween Candy Advice

Archived Q&A and Reviews


We're careful about sugar consumption - how to deal with Halloween?

Oct 2015

Every year we struggle with what to do about Halloween with our two sons, now 8- and 11-years old. Their schools make a big deal out of the ''holiday'', with costume and in-class parties, always featuring large amounts of candy. Then, later in the day, all the kids go trick or treating, resulting in much more candy.

We're pretty careful about how much sugar our sons consume. Halloween makes this very difficult and, in particular, sets up struggles between us and our sons when we deny them access to most of their bounty of candy. In the past, we've allowed them to select a small amount of candy from what they've collected and then we've thrown the rest away. This is not only a source of contention with our sons, we really don't like playing into the commerce-inspired trap of causing candy to be purchased that will immediately become garbage.

We would love to hear of how other parents who try to control their kids' access to candy deal with Halloween. Sure, we can make them trick or treat for Unicef, which is fine with us but leaves them feeling deprived. Are there better alternatives? For example, are there get-togethers to celebrate Halloween that are non-candy events?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Halloween-hating parents

Maybe you can convince your sons to trade their Halloween candy for a toy? As in, they give you all their candy and you buy them a new toy in exchange? Just an idea

From the time my son was little we had a deal: he got three pieces of candy and exchanged the rest with us for gift (small box of lego, or something he has really wanted)

He doesn't have candy ever unless he is at a birthday party and i don't see the point of letting him stuff himself with it on Halloween. However, i get that it's all very exciting and that it's a let down when you have nothing to show for your ''treat'', hence the exchange. anon

I don't have good alternative ideas that would really ''replace'' Trick or Treating for kids. Have you tried buying the candy off your kids or having them sell it through the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program? Maybe they won't feel deprived if they get cash? Another thing to try is allowing the Halloween Day binge. That might cure your kids of their candy desire for a few weeks. That really depends on the kid though. I still remember the stomach aches!

I would just let them have that one day to spend like how most other kids are spending Halloween.My brother and I tricker treated for at least three hours every Halloween and our parents never monitored how much candy we ate.After a few days,it was over.I have found that my kids friends,whose parents are strict about things like this-just get very frustrated and find ways to rebel.It is not worth it.We need to pick our battles and there are so many other things to battle about. Ellen

have them make a haunted house and run it? anon

They are only kids once, and Halloween is only once a year. Don't be the Halloween Grinch. Let them do and enjoy everything, even the candy.

Get over yourself and have fun

Give your kids a chance to manage the candy on their own. They will never learn unless you let them try.

Mom of a Teen

As someone who LOVES Halloween, I do hear what you're saying about it being mostly based on getting totally jacked up on sugar, or wallowing in plastic crap from Oriental Trading. Our son loves Halloween so much that we try to just focus more on the dressing up and decorating the house (we go a little crazy with this) part of the holiday. We do dinner with friends before trick-or-treating, let him binge on candy that night, and then he puts the rest under his bed when he goes to sleep. We swap the candy out for a toy (small Lego set, stuffed animal, etc.) and the rest goes away. We've also tried to emphasize the way that other cultures celebrate - harvest festivals, dia de los muertos (the Oakland Museum has a beautiful exhibit), changing of seasons, etc. Not sure I've offered you any solutions or ideas here, just know that you're not alone in trying to emphasize more than just a 24-hour sugar high.

C (Halloween-Loving Parent)

We let our kids go trick-or-treating and eat as much candy as they want that night. Then they can pick out a few pieces to eat over the next few days and my husband, who works with a bunch of college students, takes the remainder of the candy to work. I feel like that is a good balance of letting my kids gorge on all the candy they want (though only the youngest still does -- the others are now more temperate in what they choose to eat) and not letting them go permanently nuts in eating tons of crap. Better for their teeth too. And they feel good about giving the candy to other people, better than they would about throwing it away.

It used to make me crazy when people told my kids they could take two or take a few, but sometimes now houses will put entire handfuls (or more!) into their bags. So we also talk about that excess. Too much candy!

Here's a great way to put that candy to a charitable use - our child's pediatric dentist has an annual candy ''buy back'' - they pay the kids per pound of candy, and it is all sent to the troops. This year it's on Nov. 3 It's Alameda Pediatric Dentistry, but they have offices in Oakland and Pleasanton as well. Info at the attached link: http://alamedapediatricdentist.com/office-news/

By the way, I understand the dilemma, but you might consider that there can be real negative consequences of entirely taking the candy away from Halloween, as then it becomes forbidden fruit. An alternate approach is to think of it as a lesson in how to navigate the world of candy and consume it in moderation. Then it becomes no big deal, as let's face it - Halloween candy doesn't even taste that good. Growing up in the 70s, I saw friends who had been forbidden from treats by hippie parents turn into ''junk food junkies'' as adults.

Good luck in whatever you decide. It is a tough thing to navigate. Also conflicted about candy

We let our son eat as much candy as he wants on Halloween. The next day we tell him to pick a few pieces and that the rest is going to mommy's work. He's fine with it. He really loves it when he comes to the office and people thank him for the candy. I do think that it's important to place no limits on the first day. Let them go nuts and gorge themselves and then it's easier to get rid of the rest. Candyholic

Hi there, since your kids are old enough to realize Halloween is happening and everyone else gets candy, I think there will be conflict about you denying them their ''fair share'' in the fun. What we have done is to weigh the candy in a little ceremony - they can pick a book or a toy at the store for every pound they ''pay'' to us. I then bring the candy to work where it gets distributed. What we also do sometimes is to let them have as much as they want on Halloween and then pool the rest of the ''catch'' in a basket in the pantry and only on occasion they get to have some. They're normally fine with this since it's still there...Try to find a way to not make it feel like a punishment, like ''their'' candy is taken away, but more like ''let's store this here for later''. Talking about dental health/effects of too much sugar on the body can also convince them that enjoying in small portions is a better idea and they will understand why you feel strongly about this - that can lead to better cooperation. Julia

I too limit my son's intake of sugar. I have let go a bit and don't control what he eats at school parties but his current 4th grade teacher is strict about no sugary snacks. Here's what I do. I order from Oriental Trading and give out pencils, stickers, stretchy bugs or other such Halloween items. Most kids really like what I give out. But some don't. I usually spend between $25 - $50.

With what my son brings home, I do something odd but it really works. We divide up the treats by categories: chocolate, gum, sucking candy (lollipops and smartees), gooey (starburts, twizzlers, now and laters), and then miscellaneous. He is allowed 1 - 2 things each night for dessert. He cannot have two chocolate bars but maybe a kiss and a mini kit kat is ok. His candy, which includes stuff from Easter and Valentine's day school parties, gets added to the sorted bags ( I used the bags from our delivered newspaper). His stuff usually lasts for about 10 -11 months. The benefit of this is that he automatically gives away what he knows he won't eat ( I bring it to work) and it sort of keeps things from getting too sticky. Hope something in this helps. Faith

First I would like to say that hating Halloween is different than hating sugar. If you are okay with the ghouls and costumes and pumpkins, then there are alternatives. Like just go for a walk on Halloween night and look at the decorations. Have a few pieces of their favorite candy waiting at home for when they get back. Or maybe on your walk go to one house per block so they are able to get at least a little bit of candy. If you get too much candy, take it into the office and let the people there enjoy it. Or let a neighbor take it into their office.

Here is a great alternative. Do food trucks and artistic lights instead of candy. http://gardensatlakemerritt.org/save-the-date-autumn-lights-festival-october-16-17-2015/ Anon

Your pediatrician's or dentist's office probably has a candy buy-back program, where your kids can exchange their haul for cash or non-food prizes. Lots of medical offices around here seem to do that. But please consider letting the kids have a little fun and eat a little sugar, too - the best way to learn how to mix moderation, self-control and enjoyment is to practice it.

You're Only Young Once

Halloween doesn't ''set up a struggle'' with your kids over candy. YOU are setting up the struggle. They are definitely old enough for you to have a talk with them about the health impacts of eating, say, 5 lbs of candy; as a family, you should discuss how to pick a place to donate the bulk of it - I see lots of buybacks where the candy goes to homeless shelters, overseas military, etc. Why not let them eat what they want on Halloween itself, and then the day after donate the rest of it to the cause you have selected as a family? Plus, this may be the last year your 11 yo can get away with trick or treating (or is even interested in it) so respect that transition, let your kids be kids while they're young, and work as a family to minimize the health impact and share with others. mom of 2

Do you know the switch witch? In the night following Halloween, she exchange all candies for other treats like stickers for exemple. We are going to try this for the first year as my daughter started kindergarten this year. She already been exposed to a lot of unhealthy stuff. Just thinking about what they have for snacks give me nightares. Anyway, we decided that this year we will do the switch witch thing. We started to talk to her about it. She is not super happy but we told her that she could keep a couple of chocolate bars and that's it! We'll see how it goes. No candy please!

I agree that sugar is ubiquitous and has zero nutritional value, but if you let your kids participate in Halloween and allow them to eat their candy, what is the worst thing that could happen? Unless your kid is diabetic, one day of candy fun isn't going to kill them. I respectfully suggest you let it go and let your kids have fun, eat their Halloween candy and enjoy. Ask yourself what kind of memories you want your kids to have if Halloween: picking through their candy and enjoying themselves or feeling limited and repressed. They can brush their teeth before bed and will be just fine. Let them eat candy

A few thoughts... Really, one night of sugar overload is not going to kill them. I remember trick or treating as one of the most amazing childhood experiences. You get to dress up as whatever you want, knock on strangers doors, run around in the street at night with your friends and GET CANDY. All the things you are otherwise never allowed to do! Why not let them trick or treat for a set time and eat whatever they want that night. Pick out a few pieces for the next day then donate the rest. Children's Dentistry in El Cerrito has a candy buyback event. Kids can trade in candy and get a $1 gold coin per pound of candy. The doctors donate the collected candy to a local non-profit. Drop off candy Nov. 6, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at 7001 Stockton Ave. #3 El Cerrito. You can also send candy to troops overseas, google Operation Gratitude.

Or, stay home and have the dress in costume to greet trick-or-treaters, pass out candy and scare kids when they come to your door.

Alternatively, City of El Cerrito has a Halloween Carnival and Haunted House on October 31 from 12-3, I don't think it features any candy. And the Downtown Berkeley YMCA usually has something similar.

Don't be a party pooper

Please please do not cut Halloween out of your kids' life! no matter when and how you have a ''dress up'' time - halloween in the US or carnival in Germany - it is so special. I agree with you on the ''surplus'' of candy. here is what we do (and we have approx 500 kids coming thru our street, and our kids - 9 and 11 - roam the street for 2 hours - so we end up with a ton stuff): they keep about 1/4 whatever they like (sometimes mom goes in and does some additional selection ...) - they lose interest fairly quickly eating what they have saved another 1/4 is kept for ski season and we put it into our lunch boxes we eat on the ski hill - you could save it for some other sport events or activity the other 1/2 is being donated to dentists who send it to the troops. For they donation they get $10-15 into their savings account - so we buy it back. stefanie

If they want to trick-or-treat I say let them. Given their ages, your oldest only has a few years left anyway.

I suggest focusing their energy on selecting a charitable cause for the surplus candy. For example, some organizations collect candy to send to our overseas troops. I've heard the Ronald McDonald house will also accept donations of candy, as will various homeless shelters.

A quick google search should give them enough ideas and get them excited about parting ways with most of their treats.

Good luck! Local Parent

Well, we have developed an unusual remedy for this. I too do not like my son to eat too much Halloween candy. In my opinion, the cheap halloween candy is very unhealthy even compared to many other sweets. My son (now 10) and I have developed a tradition where he eats a few pieces on Halloween. Then we put the rest in little sandwich baggies. We keep the baggies in my car and then when we encounter homeless people, we offer them a bag of candy. It is really heart-warming for both us when we see how excited they get when we give them the candy. My son really enjoys this part of the tradition. He has no regrets about giving up the candy. If your children still feels jipped, what about finding a recipe for a halloween treat that you could make at home that is not as unhealthy, for example strawberries dipped in chocolate. I found a great recipe once for oatmeal cookies sweetened only by ripe bananas and dates.

I am sorry you received so many unsupportive responses. Too many people really don't understand how harmful processed sugar is. Sometimes we have to go counter-culture and do what's right for our kids! supporter of non/low sugar Halloween

My son's dentist told us it's actually better to let them gorge and eat all the candy they want on Halloween rather than have a piece a day for the next month. And that peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and raisins, are worse for teeth than chocolate!

For what it's worth!

The Switch Witch visits our house late after Trick-or-Treaters are asleep. She takes most of the candy and leaves a gift for my kid. We've already discussed this year and agreed that she gets to keep 10 pieces and will offer the rest to the Switch Witch. 10 pieces is still a lot, and she gets to decide when to eat it - all at once or a little over time. So she may be sugar-unregulated a bit but at least the time change makes getting up easier for us all. I roll my eyes and go with it. But I feel like I have some control over the excess of Halloween without just taking the candy away. Last year I ate a bunch of the switch witch candy but this year will be different... Recovering Sugar Addict

Gosh. Why such hatred for this fun holiday? Because you are anti-sugar?! Not sure why you want to donate candy to UNICEF but I encourage you to rethink your position for your kids' sake. I know you were looking for an alternative but consider my argument. For my family, Halloween is the favored holiday. I especially appreciate the fact that there is no religious element but is, rather, a cultural phenomenon. This is a uniquely American tradition that everyone can enjoy.

We love to decorate our home with gravestones, bats and spiders spinning cobwebs in the chandelier. We have an annual trip to the pumpkin patch and get a kick out of seeing my son pick out a favorite pumpkin that he intends to carve. We read Halloween-themed books, buy ''pumpkin o's'' from trader joes. We discuss what costume he wants to wear MONTHS ahead of the biggest night of the year. It doesn't matter that it is the same Star Wars character for the past three years.

But most of all, the excitement of the most awesome night.....houses decorated, kids gleeful, the thrill of a haunted house. Seeing all the amazing costumes and adorable little princesses and Spider-Man costumes. Kids live for this!

It has nothing to do with candy. In our experience the school parties have been healthy snacks or baked goods. The very small amount of candy my son actually retrieves from an hour of trick or treating is forgotten the next day. I keep it in a jar and dole it out over the year to his friends (or me). He knows he can't just eat a bunch of candy.

Please, please don't focus on the candy aspect. This is a genuine holiday that is focused on kids dressing up as a character. Go walk a fun neighborhood it with a group of your kids' friends or sit on your stoop and enjoy a bottle of wine while greeting trick or treaters.

Seriously, this is an amazing holiday and your kids will have the time of their lives.

Trick or treaters

Our family can relate to this! When she was 18 months, our daughter was diagnosed with several dental issues that make it a really bad idea for her to have any sticky or hard candy. Which is pretty much all candy. In addition, she's allergic to food dye. On top of that, I'm a health educator and I know way too much about long-term effects of dietary choices. So, she's never participated in trick-or-treating. I've spent her whole life dreading this holiday but thankfully I've been able to find alternatives in every city where we've lived so far (she's 9 now).

We just moved here a couple of months ago, but from my past experience there is usually at least one community event that is not candy-related. In one city our local library had a Halloween party with no candy. They gave prizes at different stations, like a scavenger hunt. I've also been a part of a parenting group that had a Halloween potluck with games. No candy there. This year we are planning on attending a family dance that's open to a group we've joined. These are just a few examples, and I'm inclined to think there are more out there. If all else fails, we've held our own Halloween event with friends. Finding like-minded families to hang with will help -- that's been huge for us. Knowing other kids who don't partake will help your kids to feel part of a crowd. It is really hard since they are in school. We don't do the school thing with our daughter, but my step-kids did, so I know what that's like.

If having your own party/get-together to celebrate with friends does not pan out, you can also start a special tradition that involves fun things you don't normally do to celebrate just within your family. Rent scary movies (ones that won't traumatize your kids of course), pop popcorn, and get some other type of special treat that doesn't involve candy (example: my step-daughter loves shrimp so one year we made different fun shrimp dishes for appetizers before the scary movie).

The best thing you can do is to find other families that you can hang with that can support what you are trying to do. This helps, trust me. And they are out there! Hang in there... Meredith

All That Candy

Oct 2007

Halloween is coming and I am wondering what other parents do with all the candy their kids bring home. I have a three year old who gets the occasional treat. (Like at a birthday party, grandma's, a friend house) She is so looking forward to halloween and the candy this year, but I just can't imagine letting her eat all of what she collects. I don't have a problem with a few pieces Halloween night but what do parents do with it after that? I like Halloween and don't want to be a scrooge but I also don't want a sugar deranged child. anon

Let her eat as much as she wants on Halloween night, then put the bag in the pantry and let her raid it for maybe a week thereafter -- subject to reasonable rules about having candy only AFTER a healthy snack or meal. Then quietly get rid of whatever is left after she's more or less forgotten about it. Kids who are allowed to control their own candy consumption tend to self-limit much more than those for whom candy is a ''forbidden pleasure.'' And gorging on the stuff in a short period of time is actually better for their teeth than eating one or two pieces at a time over a longer period. Holly

I am a kindergarden teacher (currently caring for my own baby). Many of the parents in my class invite the ''Sugar Fairy'' to their house after Halloween. You see, she only eats sugar, so by leaving the candy you collect out for her, you are helping to take care of her and she will certainly leave you a special gift as a thank you. If you are not opposed to your little one having some candy, the Sugar Fairy could leave a few pieces behind along with the non-eatable gift. Going trick-or-treating becomes an act of helping and caring for the Sugar Fairy instead of a mad rush of consumption and greed. Lyssa

We've always allowed our kids to have all the candy they want for a week. They quickly get sick of it and the rest gets thrown out. Our dentist suggested that rather than stringing all that sugar on their teeth out over months. anon

I steal it. I eat what I want and throw the rest away. Well, sort of...I make it very clear before we go out trick-or-treating that I need to go through their basket before they eat anything. I immediately take out anything that is a choking hazard and throw it away. I let them pick a few pieces in which to indulge that night. After they go to bed, I throw away more and eat some. Hey, who doesn't like free mini-snickers? I stretch this out over the course of the week (though I have usually stopped indulging my own need for mini-twix bars by the second or third night). They get to 'finish' it, so they don't go to bed with some in their basket and wake up with it all gone in the morning. I would hate to be fingered by my children as a candy thief. After a week, we can usually transition into full bore 'lets get ready for Thanksgiving' mode and Halloween is forgotten until the following August when costumes start showing up in stores. Oh, NEVER, EVER, EVER, suggest that you 'count' the pieces of candy. You'll get caught. jan

Our dentist will buy the candy for $1.00 a pound (or such.) You can also do the ''switch witch'' and let your daughter keep a few pieces of candy and switch the rest for a special treat or a small toy. Our daughter always knew the switch witch was me, and she was happy to switch for a toy starting at age 3. anon

I read about this in a magazine and developed my own version. You let them eat what they want after Trick or Treat, then you have them leave the candy outside for the Switch Witch. The Switch Witch leaves them a gift in exchange for the candy. I made up this poem for my girls to read when they left out the candy.

Switch Witch Poem

Oh wise Switch Witch,
Take away this bag.
Switch it with fun,
Please be a good hag.
We had lots of fun,
On our Trick or Treat night.
So now do your trick,
Take our treats out of sight.
We enjoyed eating the sweets,
Our Halloween is complete.
Thank you oh Switch Witch,

We are ready for the new treat.


Last year, when my son was 3 1/2, we introduced the ''Halloween Fairy''. The concept is, you pick some candy from your bag and leave it for the Halloween Fairy, who will leave you a present in exchange for the candy. The more/better the candy, the better your chances of getting a cool present from her. My son left half his candy out for her and ''the fairy'' left him a nice gift and a thank you note. He's already excited for her to come this year. Finding someone else to dump the candy on is another story...putting it out at someone's office usually works.

Good luck! Halloween Fairy

Return it. The big chocolate companies buy from the Ivory Coast who use CHILD SLAVES to harvest their chocolate. Send the candy back the manufacturer with a letter that states your feelings on child slavery. Here's a good article by John Robbins http://www.foodrevolution.org/slavery_chocolate.htm Here are their addresses: Hershey Foods Corp. can be reached at 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033; (717) 534-6799. Mars, Inc. can be reached at 6885 Elm Street, McLean, VA 22101; (703) 821-4900. Tell them that you expect something to be done immediately to ensure that cocoa imported into the U.S. is not harvested by enslaved children. Jennifer
My son went trick or treating for the first time last year at 2 yrs of age and even though we only went to about 7 houses in our neighborhood, he got half a bucket of candy. He didn't get to eat any of his candy because we wanted to delay chocolates and other sugary ''treats'' for as long as we could, and some of the candies were choking hazards. Instead, I threw 2 boxes of raisins into his bucket, and allowed him to pick 2 things from his bucket to have (one treat for each hand). He at first went for a snickers bar because it had flashy wrapping and I made a yuck face so he put it back in his bucket and since he recognized what the raisin boxes were, he picked the raisins for his treat. We put cool stickers on the boxes and prominently displayed the boxes in our kitchen, next to the basket with ''approved'' snacks. I ended up taking the rest of the candy to work so that my husband and I didn't end up eating the candy ourselves. I think I'll utilize the same ''trick'' this year, but allow him to pick out a few more items...(almost) anything he can put into a snack-size zip lock baggie, dress up the baggie and place it next to the snack basket in our kitchen. He still has to ask permission to take a piece of candy for snack time. mai
We have a very simple approach. Trick or treating is an end in itself and is very fun just for saying the words trick or treat and seeing what you get. We let our daughter do full trick or treating and when we get home we sort it out and make an event of seeing what she got. She is allowed to keep 5 pieces of candy after having one or two that night. The next day she will usually ask for one, and after that I say maybe later that week and it generally sits in a cupboard and we eventually throw it away. I should say that we don't have desserts every day and candy very rarely, so it really is a treat to get the candy. Anon
We use the ''magic pumpkin'' approach. It goes like this: On Halloween night my son is allowed to eat some reasonable amount of candy. The rest is put on the front porch for the magic pumpkin, who comes, takes the candy, and leaves a toy. (The candy then goes to mom's office to get it out of the house). It has worked since he was two years old, and though he is now 6 and beginning to suspect that mom is behind this, he is still happy to do the exchange. I've also heard this called the ''Switch Witch''. Good luck! No Cavities yet!
When I was a kid, my dad had a rule that my sister and I could pick out ten pieces of candy from the trick-or-treat bag and the rest went to charity. We dutifully complied -- whether the candy actually was donated I don't know. In any event, I instituted that rule for my son, who is now 8, and he, like me, has dutifully complied. This works in part because he knows that candy is not grow food and is bad for teeth and body. Not a Rebel
The Great Pumpkin (kind of like Santa Claus in reverse) comes to our house a day or two after Halloween. The kids get to eat all they want that night, then they leave the rest on the porch for the Great Pumpkin. The candy disappears and is replaced by a cool new book. Very exciting... a believer
My friend swears by the ''Switch Witch''. The kids can keep 4 or 5 of their favorite treats, or you can let them eat what they want for a day or two, but then, at night, they leave their Halloween goody bag at the foot of their bed at night, and the Switch Witch brings them a toy that they've really wanted, in exchange. You could also leave money, I guess, but the toy is an instant disctraction from the candy, which disappears. Heidi, mom of 3
I too have this issue, but I decided in the end that a bunch of candy isn't going to hurt the kid a couple times a year (halloween and easter.) I remember how happy I was that my parents never limited the candy after halloween. I could eat as much as I wanted. I could make myself sick if I wanted (never did-although I should have with all I ate!) I would eat tons of it and was fine the next day. (Theres acually a bunch of studies that show it isnt' the sugar that riles kids up but the excitement of the event where they get it.) So I just let my daughter eat 5-10 pieces then go to bed that night. I just don't let her have it for breakfast or before meals.
If you really want to limit it but not be a scrooge, just let them eat x number of pieces that night, and say they can have x number every day. And after they go to bed, take a few pieces out and throw them away, and do this every night. After a few days, it will all be gone! Non-scrooge mommy
We let our kids gorge for Halloween night and the next day. We figure this is worthwhile suffering, because we value sharing in the childhood traditions, and we value our own memories of swimming in the forbidden fruit. (We don't let them eat unlimited amounts, just a whole lot.) Then we ask them to choose a non-food treat that would be reasonable to trade for the rest of their candy, and buy it for them. This is maybe a $15 item for the five- and seven- year olds. We do this along with explaining how we share their love of candy, and how it's simply not healthy to fill a week or a month with it. When they were smaller, we pulled out a handful of candy for each of the two days, instead of letting them choose. I'm not big on materialism, but the pain of forgoing a long tradition that all surrounding kids are enjoying is a real pain for the kids, and I feel fine giving a gift as consolation. Also, Halloween is our only big candy holiday. At Easter, for instance, their baskets are filled with small toys (like Christmas stockings are), and they know ahead of time that sugary gifts from others will mostly not be eaten. Happy Halloween.
I'd love to find some (organic? eco?) alternative to all the junky candy that is given out on Halloween. Last year we went trick or treating early with the kids, and got back home around 7ish. We let them keep a small percentage of the candy, but had more than enough leftover to give out to trick or treaters that showed up later that evening!
If your kid is 3, you'll probably be able to sneak the candy away and throw it in the trash... or to be nicer you could have your child trade it in exchange for a decent toy or something better - then throw all the crappy candy away! (ok I do actually like the almond joys)
The best ideas I know of are buying the candy from your kid then bringing it to work-it will be eaten and probably appreciated there!
At 3, your daughter won't even notice most of it missing, and she'll forget a lot of it. My 5 yr old even forgets still. (I've been known to skim the good stuff for myself...) Give her a treat or two now and then, only after she finishes a really good dinner or lunch, of course. And ask if she wants to sell it for a favorite item (which maybe you would have gotten her anyway). The other thing I've done is hand non-candy treats to the neighbors we visit for trick or treat, so she gets mostly what I actually give her. (and at 3, it won't even seem strange to her that you hand things to people right after they open the door)
When my kids were in preschool, a parent picked up all the candy parents brought in and donated it to a shelter. The kids there don't get to trick or treat, and really enjoyed it. Don't recall which shelter, but I believe many of them will take any wrapped candy. anon
We let our kids collect as much as they do and then go through it all at once after the evening is over. We read ingredients together. Vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring, is a petroleum byproduct. High-fructose corn syrup is nasty stuff, and partially hydrogenated oils are also horrible for children's bodies. So are artificial colorings. Sorry, but just because we ate them as children doesn't mean they were good for us. We let them pick a good amount of the candies that aren't filled with the above nasties and then they get to trade in the worst ones for candy and treats at the natural foods store where we shop. Organic, fair trade chocolate (no child slave labor involved), real licorice, flame raisins, sesame chocolate bars, etc. They actually prefer the taste of the ''cleaner'' candies anyway, but of course it's fun to open and eat from the Halloween cache once a year. After a few days of it, they forget that they even have candy around and then it just ''disappears'' (I'm always amazed at how quickly it all goes when we leave it out for adults at work). I can imagine the comments that my posting might draw, but this is how our family does it, and our kids enjoy the process. It's fun to watch them throw the really nasty ones into the Nasty Pile with a grimace: ''EW! This one has high fructose corn syrup AND vanillin AND chemical colorings!'' We eat healthy meals and try to model good food choices for them every other day of the year, why should it be different on Halloween? I want them to be able to feel like they have the information they need to make better choices and this is a good time for that since they don't even see those kinds of products otherwise. Halloween can be fun and healthy at the same time. Happy Halloween
A couple of years ago someone gave me this great suggestion for dealing with the candy issue AND the ''not in the spirit of the thing'' Trick or Treaters: A few days after Halloween she puts the remaining candy away in a forgotten cupboard somewhere...then the FOLLOWING Halloween she has two bowls of candy -- one fresh, for children in costume, and one of year-old candy for the large number of high school students who wander our neighborhood without even dressing up. Chances are the kids don't even notice if the candy's stale, but it takes care of the surplus treats problem, AND she gets to play an coy little prank on the people who would otherwise annoy her. Perfect! Trick with Treats
I was intrigued by the post suggesting to send the candy back to the manufacturer. I would like to investigate that further. In the meantime I throw it in the garbage, vs taking it in to work. This country produces more food than we need, I think there are 3000-3500 calories per person produced, and many of us only need half of those calories. Food manufacturers are trying to sell as much as possible, we don't have to cooperate with their marketing by eating it! dietitian
Just a comment on all the replies to what to do with Halloween candy. Our kids get to have a some candy every day for a week. They know that at the end of that week, it all goes back to our elementary school. From there it goes to a local homeless shelter.
My comment has to do with the concept of the giving the child a gift in return for giving up candy. We have never subscribed to this practice as I felt it rewarded the child yet more for already having received something free - usually in great amounts. It is important that children accept limits without rewards. And Halloween itself is one big reward!
My two cents I've got an idea! Why don't we give away stickers this year, instead of candy? Many of you recommend throwing the candy away, and that seems like such a waste of money. I also only give away one piece of candy, not an entire handful. hate to waste
I was not going to respond, but then I heard about the tricks to get kids to give away their candy. I believe the same as Holly, kids who are able to regulate their sugar intake regulate themselves more than if an adult does it for them. Since my daughter has been younger than 2 she has had her own ''snack cabinet.'' There is - dare I say - Zero Regulation by adults. When we're ready to go grocery shopping we ask her if she needs anything for her snack cabinet, she usually wants Trader Joe's trail mix and she likes us to mix in about B < cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. She has asked that candy be bought for her occasionally, we buy it, she stores it, sometimes eats it, sometimes not. For Halloween she keeps all the candy and treats she receives and eats them as she wants. Here's the rub, we do ask her (ask her, not demand of her) that she empties out the previous Halloween candy before putting this year's candy in the cabinet. She usually has 7/8 of it left over from the previous year. What I do know is that her two best friends make a bee-line for the cabinet every time they come over. The end result is my daughter has excellent eating habits, is a proportionate weight for her height, zero cavities at 8 years old and one friend has poor eating habits and 5 cavities and the other has mediocre eating habits with 7 cavities. Both have trouble regulating their own sugar intake. Trusting My Daughter's Ability to Regulate Herself
I don't know why, but your question bugged me. Really just let you kid be a kid for one night and eat the candy that she wants! What is so wrong with just letting our kids go for it every once in a while. Come on don't you remember how fun it was to get all that candy and what an accomplishment it was to pour it all out when you got home and look at ALL that candy and know that you pounded the pavement for every little piece. Well do ya? It was great! Let your kid be a kid. It a simple pleasure once a year! They will have fond memories of the one night Mom let me just eat all that candy I wanted. Signed a Mom who still remembers!
One way to keep the amount of candy to a minimum (allowing you to feel better about letting them have as much as they want) is to take them to just a few houses. When they are very little, they have no concept yet of the expectation to hit every house in the neighborhood. Also - you can remind them to take ''just one'' at each place. I always include some non-candy items (little tops, stickers, etc.) in the bowl for trick-or-treaters, and many of the younger kids opt for those. R.K.
Whatever you decide to do with your halloween candy, do NOT take it to the homeless shelter. Sometimes people are so arrogant: ''I don't let my child have any refined sugar, so I'll give it to some poor homeless child and then pat myself on the back for doing a good deed.'' Lynn
Two ideas: The ''Switch Witch''...let your child pick a few pieces to keep (you decide quantity) and explain that on Halloween night the Switch Witch will come and take away the surplus and leave good boys and ghouls a specical spooky toy (again you decide what is appropriate). We don't pass out candy anymore. We pass out Hotwheels, stickers, pencils and all the cheap toys we have accumulated over the year from birthday party goodie bags. I have never heard a complaint, even from the older kids who believe it or not still like Hotwheels and pencils apparently.
Please people, don't bring the candy to work. I will eat it because I have no will and I am already busting out of my size 14's. I beg of you on behalf of my thighs, no candy at work! spooky and chunky mama
Without getting into a long, unconstructive thread about this, I am the person who posted about donating Halloween candy to a shelter - not out of arrogance and because I don't let my children have refined sugar, but because the shelter director mentioned to me that the children don't usually have the experience of going out for Halloween, get very little candy and it is actually a treat for them. I would not dream of just dumping unwanted candy on them and was assured that it was indeed welcomed.

My son's dentist recently handed out the following information regarding the Three Day Rule on Halloween candy. I thought that parents who had not seen this might find it helpful. The objective of this rule is to allow your child to join in the merriment of Halloween without causing a lot of dental problems. The worst thing a child can do with his or her Halloween candy is to save it and eat small portions each day for several weeks or months. This daily dose of sugar will raise the bacteria count in the mouth tremendously. The bacteria that cause dental decay are nourished by whatever we eat. Their digestive systems are not sophisticated, so they depend on our salivary enzymes to turn the food we eat into simple sugars before they can ingest it. If we eat unsweetened food, the bacteria have to wait before they can begin their meal. This is a good thing because it gives us time to swallow the food we put in our mouth and hopefully go and brush our teeth to remove most of the remaining food. However, when we eat a food that already is a simple sugar, the bacteria do not need to wait for our salivary enzymes to convert anything. The bacteria can immediately start their own feeding frenzy. When one eats candy, the bacteria in your mouth are given a dose of nourishment which sets off a round of cell diversion, multiplying the numbers of bacteria. If one eats candy every day this quickly gets out of hand, and it's no wonder that decay occurs. So, when the kids return with their candy they can eat as much as they like before bed that night, and as much as they like for two days after Halloween. Then before bed on that third day the children must hand over any remaining candy for discarding. There is rarely any left! Why is this good? 1. The bacteria count has been raised for a short time - not long enough for a cavity to form. After three days it can slide back to normal. 2. You have avoided the stigma of prohibition. 3. You have allowed the child to experience overindulgence and the discomfort or even revulsion that accompanies it. 4. You have avoided all that nagging, and those self doubts about the quality of your parenthood. Good luck and happy halloween!

A neighbor of mine did not give her son (age 2-6 when we lived near them) any refined sugar in his diet, but wanted him to be able to enjoy the whole trick-or-treating thing with his friends. So she used to buy the pieces of candy from him after he collected it (he usually was allowed to eat 1 or 2, but wasn't really into it--called chocolate a wierd brown thing that tasted kinda interesting). Then she would take him to a toystore where he could pick out a toy to buy with his money. He loved it. heidi

Handling Halloween with a child w/ food allergies

Sept 2006

I'd love some advice on how to navigate Halloween with our two- year old son who has food allergies. Since he has a peanut and milk allergy (so nothing made with milk, cream or butter ... so most candy is out) his choices are limited and I'm not sure how to handle trick-or-treating. When he is older I will send him with a Unicef box and he will know what he can and can't eat ... but in these early years when he is interested in going to a few houses in his costume I'm not sure what to do. Since we try to limit sugary stuff I know it will be novel for him to have access to candy, and I'm not sure how to approach it without making him feel deprived and frustrated. Do you just politely decline when you see what each house is offering if it's not safe for him? Do you skip trick-or-treating completely? I was wondering about maybe trading his candy for a small toy or books ... any thoughts? Anon

Maybe it's too early, but I have a friend whose daughter leaves the things she can't eat for the Halloween Fairy who then leaves a great toy in exchange. Still works at age 5 -anon.

I give the kids party favor type toys that I put into a basket. Whistles are especially popular as are individual stickers, New Year's noise makers, fun pencils, little containers of bubbles, etc. Most items are non gender specific. I can hear the kids squealing with delight as they come up to the front door that 'this is the house that gives the toys'. I provide an assortment, they get to choose one, most everything is too large for a young child to swallow. The price is a bit more than bags of candy, but I go to party supply stores, $ stores, Michael's, find stuff on sale, etc. to buy in packages/bulk. I think the noisemakers not only provide a way to let off excess energy and excitement, they help keep the kids safe crossing streets. No Guilt About The Refined Junk

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)has in the past had articles about handling Halloween in its newsletter. So I would check its website. How we've handled trick-or-treating for our son who is severely allergic to peanuts (but doesn't have dairy allergy): Our basic ground rule is that he is not allowed to eat any of the treats while trick or treating. When we get home, mom or dad takes his bag and clears out all the unsafe treats (about 75%-80% of them, since chocolate carries too much risk of cross-contamination). What he's left with are basically some hard candies and fruity-type candies (believe me, candywise this is plenty!). If a person is handing out something that obviously has peanuts (e.g. Snickers or Reeses), he won't take it and will explain that he has peanut allergy (he loves telling people about his allergy). For class parties, etc. we make sure he has his own treats, so that he can avoid baked goods. Of course, we always make sure to have an Epi-Pen and backup on hand, and keep a close eye on him. He loves Halloween and has a great time. movenden

Most of the fun for kids is in collecting the candy, so I say to let your child trick-or-treat. Don't decline to take the candy or try to explain food allergies at every house. Just take it all home, and edit it for the bad stuff when you get home (just like you would go through it for open wrappers, etc). Perhaps, as you mentioned, trade the items your child cannot have for a book or toy. Or just throw it out. Chances are that a 2-year-old will not miss it Susan

We dealt with this last year for the first time (peanut allergy). I let my daughter accept anything that was given to her (although if she was asked to choose from a bowl, I helped her pick something without peanuts). Once we got home, I sorted all the candy and gave away (to my brother) all the peanut candies. I would have loved to keep them for myself, but we're a peanut-free home and I don't need the calories anyway! That left a small selection of things that felt safe for her.

This year, I am more concerned about cross-contamination, so I will probably go to the store and buy candy that is nut free and not made on shared equipment with peanuts or tree nuts so that I have the benefit of all food labeling. I may also make some treats, like rice krispie treats, etc. Then, I will make a halloween bag for her and trade candy bags when the night is over. Not a secret trade - I will explain why she can't have the candy from trick-or-treating and why she can have this candy anon

Seed your neighborhood. Candy/treats that he can eat, and some small toys. Go to your neighbors 30 minutes before you trick-or- treat and ask them to give him the treats you provide. You probably can do this through 4 years old, by which time he will already be VERY aware that he can't eat what others can. happy halloween!

My 4 yo son has multiple allergies as well (dairy, egg, beef, nuts, fish and until 1 year ago, wheat). I've always let him trick or treat, but he trades candy with his older sisters--things he can eat for things he can't eat. When he was smaller and couldn't eat wheat (which restricted many, many things because of modified food starch), I just went through his bag of treats and replaced stuff he couldn't eat with stuff that he could (not one-to-one, because the little ones simply don't need to eat many sweets, IMO). We have a firm rule that no candy is eaten while we are out trick or treating. We also just have the kids the candy for a few days (as much as they want after lunch and dinner) and then I ship it all off to Daddy's office.

Personally, I'm not a fan of the idea of having kids go out and ask folks for candy and throwing it all out and giving them a book or toy. Seems like a waste of other people's money to me. If that's what people want for their kids, just go buy your child a book or toy and leave the candy at your neighbors house for other people to enjoy. Hope this helps. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

Halloween has never been a big, traumatic event for my son. He understands now that he feels bad when he eats things he is allergic too and when he was too young to understand that, he simply didn't know what he was missing! Good luck! Jennifer

I had a neighbor child with multiple food allergies. His parents traded some with him for small toys/games and some he traded with other neighbor kids for what few things he could eat -- halloween fun I don't think a 2 year old will really be able to keep track of what candy he is getting at each house, but he will probably enjoy going house to house and getting something at every house. He probably won't be able or want to go to more than a dozen houses or so. Why not buy a small assortment of candy he can have and other treats like small toys ahead of time? Then after trick or treating you can replace the candy he can't have with stuff he can. (Our kids don't have allergies, but we don't let them have all the candy they collect either.) --Have a Happy Halloween!

My sister's son has many severe allergies. So what she has done for Halloween is to go to a few neighbors she is friendly with and give them treats that are safe for her son to eat ahead of time. THen when he goes to their door, they have something to give him. Your idea about trading candy for toys reminded me of another idea though. What we have done with our children (since we try to keep candy out of their diet altogether) is tell them they can leave their Halloween candy for the ''switch witch'' (I don't remember who I got the idea form originally). The Switch Witch loves candy if they leave their Halloween candy outside their bedroom door for her as an offering she will ''switch'' with them and will leave them a wonderful surprise (i.e. a fun toy we bought at a garage sale) in place of the candy. Our children have been very happy with this and even have mentioned to others they see with candy, ''You know, if you leave that outside your door for the switch witch...'' Julie

I have a 6 year old child with food allergies and we've always handled the candy thing this way...when he was 2 he didn't really get the whole candy thing so we just took it away and gave him a lolly pop. beginning when he was 3 i ordered candy from a nut free website, and he collected candy with every one else, and then we swapped it for his collected candy, which i made my husband take to work and give away. he does not want a recurrence of his horrible reaction, so he's very compliant. there are organizations that fund raise and educate around this issue, in lieu of candy. i don't have the specifics, but google around and they show up. no nuts for we

My son has a metabolic disorder and I belong to a listserv and one of the suggestions for Halloween is to go around to the neighbors the night before and leave with them some candy (or non candy items, stickers, pencils) that your child both likes and can have. Another idea is to trade candy..have a container at home with various treats your child can have and he or she can trade the halloween candy they get for treats in the container one-for one, gives them some choice and control also the amount they come home with is what they end up with. wee_reets

My son (now in high school) is allergic to nuts and peanuts, and we've handled Halloween with ''tradeouts.'' First, be sure that whatever you give out for trick-or- treats is something your son loves. When going door to door I don't think you should refuse things your child is allergic to. That would be awkward and take away the most fun part of trick-or-treating. Make sure your son understands that he can't eat anything until you get home. When you get home, spread everything out on a table and explain to him that some candy can make him sick (which I'm sure he already knows.) Tell him you'll take the ''bad candy'' away and give him something in its place. (You might want to think about doing the trades one piece at a time so your child knows he's not getting ripped off - 2 year olds can get testy when you take their stuff.) Then trade out each allergen containing candy and give him something from your stash of safe stuff. Then run to your basket and take the candy you just took out of your son's pile and give those things to the next trick or treaters that come to your door. Any left over contraband goes out the door the next day with whoever's going to work. That way, nothing gets wasted and you don't have any unsafe candy in the house. If you decide to try this, you might want to start explaining tradeouts a few days in advance. I know this could be a little tricky with a 2 year old, but that's the age we started doing this with my child. If you start now, as he grows up he'll understand that this is what makes trick-or-treating safe and fun for him. Good luck! Happy Halloween

From the mom of my allergic neice: www.foodallergy.org has tons of helpful ideas. A few thoughts: 1.FAAN has its own box to collect money for FAAN instead of UNICEF. Her child might understand that enough next year to want to help others like him. 2. At that age, I was gave out safe candy to houses belonging to friends or neighbors that knew my daughter. We only went to those houses. When they answered the door, they handed her treats that I had supplied. 3.As she got older, that didn't fly anymore. She wanted to go to houses of people I didn't know. We let her collect all the candy she wants, then bring it home and sift through. Anything safe for her she can eat. All other candy is traded to us for either safe candy or trinkets. Other friends have had success picking out a ''real'' present in advance with the child and telling the child they can trade their candy in for that present at the end of the night. 4. As of last year, we don't even really need to worry about it much.

My neighborhood started a great event to take the focus off of candy. Instead we have a parade/party/costume contest. We enlist ''judges'' in advance all over the neighborhood willing to judge the costume contest. We give them tickets before Halloween. On Halloween, all the judges have flags in front of their houses so the kids know where to go. All the kids march around the neighborhood in a big parade. Then, while trick or treating, whenever you stop at a judge's house you get tickets (the better the costume, the more tickets you get). At the end of the night, you all meet at a designated spot for a big party (we even had a DJ) and the kids trade their tickets for prizes (cheap trinkets purchased online but you'd be amazed how the kids love 'em). By the middle of the evening, my kids were yelling ''forget trick-or-treating at that house, there's no judge there!!'' They had forgotten all about the candy and instead wanted just to get lots of tickets for prizes. The plan worked brilliantly but took a lot of effort on the part of the organizers. I just found out today that my neighborhood is doing it again this year, yay! Aunt Ruth

Healthy Halloween Treats


This is a response to Nils who would like some ideas on healthy trick or treats. I have seen snack sizes of something like trail mix. It comes in a large bag with several smaller cellophane packages--about the size you would put in a lunch box. If I remember correctly, the packets contain sunflower seeds with raisins and carob chips. I don't remember the brand name--but you should find it alongside other snack items such as Cheese 'N Crackers, etc. Liz

One friend of mine has handed out school supplies alongside of some very minor candies. So for instance, one year she had a supply of erasers, and also some small hardcandies. The kids could choose a combination as directed at the door. Other things she has handed out were pencils and crayons. Dawn

Have you considered just handing out quarters? I think the older kids might really like it. You could have a few treats for the three-and-under crowd. Beth

This is a message to the person who asked for ideas about non-surgary items to give out at Halloween which were packaged and therefore safe as opposed to raisins. I don't know of an item to suggest, but I would like to suggest that Price/Costco would certainly be a place to check. They have LARGE amounts of things at LOW prices. They, of course, have an aisle of standard packaged Halloween candy in large bags at the best prices around, but they also have lots of other items which could include types of granola bars (they may have chocolate chips, but they're packaged, would be an improvement over straight-up candy, and many kids like them). I'll bet you could get them for under $.50 each, as you were wanting. Good luck.

Write back about what you find/decide to do. I'm always looking for new ideas about Halloween alternatives. Tamara

Regarding Holloween Treats, have you heard of the Oriental Trading Company? They put out a great catalog of gifts and gadgets at VERY reasonable prices. The inventory is similar to that of a party supply outlet. We've ordered a gross of pencils, rubber spiders, ect. for less than $20. The catalog is seasonal and includes most holidays. Oriental Trading Company, Inc.: 1-800-228-2269 Laura

We are very concerned with the treats given on Halloween but we do love the holiday. What we have done in the last few years is to give out $0.25 wrapped in saran wrap and tied with an orange bow. We get about 100-- and although the kids probably spend the $ on candy--my hope is that this way the parents have some control. We spend about $25 Robi

I share your concern about handing out sugary treats. I've tried different approaches in different years. One year I ran out of candy, and in desperation I handed out apples that I happened to have on hand. I was amazed at a bunch of kids who were really excited to get them!

The last few years I've been handing out a combination of a very small piece of candy (because my husband thinks it's necessary), such as the tiny Reese's cups, combined with some non-candy treat such as a single sticker, a tiny inexpensive plastic toy, a tiny pad of paper, or a colorful-looking pencil. Cute, cheap doodads can be gotten at places like Paper Plus on San Pablo Avenue a couple blocks north of University. The kids have been enthusiastic about the non-edible treats. Maybe their parents are like I am, and let them have all of the toys that they collect, but only a fraction of the candy. In any case, the kids don't seem to mind. Beverly

I just got my issue of Nutrition Action News today and here's the Tip of the Month: This Halloween, consider giving pogs, wiggly worms, or other tiny toys. If you're stuck on candy, skip the chocolates. Lollipops, licorice, and similar candies are full of sugar, but at least they're not fatty. Judy