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Tricia Thompson, MS, RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide and has a MS degree in nutrition from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA degree in English Literature from Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Living Gluten-Free

 
by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, The Gluten-Free Dietitian

 
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Halloween is just a few days away and the excitement certainly is growing in my house. But if you have a child who can’t eat gluten you probably are less than thrilled with this holiday.

How do you let them eat candy and make sure it is gluten free, especially when the little mini versions available at Halloween generally do not contain ingredient lists?

You could always forgo trick-or-treating altogether and have a Halloween party instead. If this is considered a “no fun” option in your house than hopefully the following tips will help.

If you haven’t done so already, plan to spend some time at the store parked in front of the Halloween candy display reading ingredient lists. Write down the names of those candies that do not contain any gluten ingredients.

Many candy manufacturers include allergen information on their packaging. However, some allergen information is more helpful than others.

Smarties candy, manufactured by the Ce De Candy Company, states the following on their label, “Smarties contain none of the following common allergens: gluten (from wheat, barley, oats, and rye), milk, egg, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, or soybeans.” Now that is what I call helpful allergen labeling!! I will buy this candy just for this statement alone.

If the bags of candy you pick up do not contain all of this helpful information and you are concerned about allergens and cross contact, go online to manufacturer websites to see if they have any information available on allergens and gluten. You can also call manufacturers to discuss their quality control procedures.

There are lists of candy made without gluten-containing ingredients available on line. Google gluten-free Halloween candy and several sites will come up. You will have to judge for yourself how reliable you think the information is.

Make sure your child is aware of what candy you decide is gluten free and safe for them to eat. That way when presented with a choice and allowed to choose their own piece of candy, they will choose a gluten-free variety.

If you are friends with some of the families in the areas where you will be trick-or-treating, give them a list of gluten-free candy or provide them with candy yourself. This way your child is guaranteed a gluten-free option from at least some of the houses they visit.

In fact, this is a strategy followed by the Roberts family, a family of five with celiac disease and multiple food allergies.

Mom Jane says, “In the past I have prepared for trick-or-treating by planning ahead. I made 10 Ziploc bags of candies for each of my kids and delivered them to my neighbors with a note asking them to give these to our children on Halloween night. That way, I knew for sure the kids would get at least some candy they could eat.

"Afterward, the children of some of those parents were willing to do a "candy trade" for the candies that weren't safe that my kids received at other houses. It worked out great! I was amazed how willing people were to help out the next year and actually asked what kind of candy was safe for my children. What a treat!”

This may seem like a no-brainer but, just in case, make sure the candy you buy to give out Halloween night is gluten free. Buy extra so that your child can “trade” the gluten-containing candy they receive for the gluten-free candy you are handing out. Kids (at least mine and it looks like Jane’s too) love to trade candy.

Let your child exchange their gluten-containing candy for a toy. We have been exchanging candy for a toy in my house for years simply because I didn’t want my son eating too much candy!

Hopefully some of these tips are useful and will help make Halloween a little less stressful for you!


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