Around the end of October the weather begins to change. Halloween, the day when children everywhere don creative costumes to go hunting for treats arrives, and the seemingly normal next-door neighbor’s yard suddenly becomes strewn with cardboard head stones and fake spider webbing. But what to do when gluten is an issue?
As a child, the costume was definitely the biggest part of Halloween every year, far overshadowing the inevitable small pile of collected candy. Like most little kids, I would know weeks in advance what I wanted to be that year; a princess, a flower fairy, super girl, just to name a few. Not knowing that I was Celiac at the time, but still having many other food sensitivites related to bad vaccine reactions as an infant, most candy, certainly anything brightly colored, or containing high-fructose anything, was out. Commercial sweets and candies were really not something I was used to anyway; the gluey smell of artificial color and sugar actually made me sort of sick. Instead, for years around Halloween, my Mom would find, or make, healthy alternatives for sweet treats available, so neither I, nor my friends would feel we were missing out in any way. And none of us did, in fact I don’t think anyone even thought about the fact that they weren’t eating “real” M&M’s. Instead, it was more about having fun with friends. This is probably part of the reason why pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts to this day; to make and to eat. Apart from the fact that it’s absolutely delicious, a healthy version of it is something my Mom would often make, and I came to associate it with this time of year, and the whole Autumn season. As a result, I got so used to the natural versions of chocolate, carob, and fruit treats (when you are used to the real thing, your taste buds do change ;-)), that when presented with the regular commercially available versions, I really wasn’t sure what to do with them. Eat them, seriously? They didn’t actually look all that good, and sort of smelled oddly like plastic. . .
Usually, by the end of the night, after all the trick-or-treating was over, all the sweets I had collected would be dumped out on the kitchen table to go through the obligatory sort out by my mom and I, trying to figure out which ones would be okay to eat; free of any items I was allergic to. Aside from some chocolate and peanut butter cups, not much would usually make it. For many around Halloween, especially parents of small children with food alergies, this can be a real challenge. Which treats are okay to eat? If you go to a party, it isn’t always so easy to spot which ones are good and which ones aren’t, on top of the fact that you probably don’t want to spend your evening reading labels. Even if it doesn’t seem obvious, many contain hidden gluten in the forms of starch, artificial sweeteners, flavoring and coloring. To answer this question, we wanted to provide a partial list of commercially available treats which are known to be gluten free (for the full list, see the link here). Along with this, there is also a selection of healthy fun alternatives without all the artificial ingredients, most of which we tried in the past, that still provide the illusion of being “candy.” If you have a favorite healthy option for Halloween treats, don’t hesitate to share it in the comments section below.
First, the list you should Avoid if you, or children in your family are gluten intolerant.
- Airheads: Airheads extreme roll — have wheat flour
- Annabelle’s: Rocky Road — barley malt and wheat
- Brach’s: All verities are not gluten free!!
- Hershey: Kit-Kat, Twizzlers, Whoppers, Mars, and Wrigley
- Milky Way: Milky Way Bar
- Nestle: Butterfinger, Crunch, Hundered Grand Bar, Wonka Oompas, and Wonka Bar.
- Russel Stover: Products produced on shared equipment with wheat!
- Wonka: Sweettarts, Gummy Bugs, Sweettarts Rope, Oompas, Wonka Bar. (Honestly, this may sound silly, but until now, I had no idea this was even a candy company. I thought they were characters from a book and a really crazy movie.
Here is the list of Gluten Free Alternatives. Of course we always suggest you read the labels in case of any last minute ingredient changes by the manufacturers.
- Hershey: Bliss (Milk chocolate with almonds, With meltaway center, With raspberry, White chocolate with meltaway center, Dark chocolate.) Hershey’s Kisses, Plain Hershey Bars (except cookies and cream).
- Jolly Rancher: Jolly Rancher Hard Candy
- M&M’s: Except Pretzel
- Mars: Snickers Bar
- Nestle: Raisinets
- Reese’s: Peanut Butter Cups
- Starburst: Fruit Chews
- York: Peppermint Patties
Here is the list of mostly Healthy Alternatives to both of the above lists. Nearly all of these are organic, use natural vegetable dies, fruit juice, and natural sugars. Most can be found at your local health food store (for us in New Mexico and Colorado, that would most likely be Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods. All of the items below can also be found at a great site called “The Natural Candy Store” which provides a handy breakdown of items which are gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan. A link to their site can be found here. Especially the Sunspire sweets are ones we have used many times in the past, and were a favorite of mine as a child.
- Annie’s: Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
- Earth Balls: Earth Balls Fair Trade Milk Chocolate and Carob Treats (Made by Sunspire, and an old favorite!)
- Endangered Species: Chocolate Treats (available in milk and dark chocolate).
- Equal Exchange: Dark Chocolate Bites
- Glee Gum: Natual Chewing Gum
- Justin’s: Peanut Butter Cups
- Organic Root beer Barrels
- Sunspire: Sundrops (available in Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Peanut, and Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds.)Sun Cups ( available in dark and milk chocolate.) All colors are made from natural vegetable juice.
- Surf Sweets: Natural Gummy Bears, Sour Berry Bears, Organic Sour Worms, Organic Jelly Beans.
- Yummy Earth: Candy Drops, Lollipops
If you feel adventurous and would like to try your hand at making some special treats for your Halloween Party, here is a link to an easy pumpkin cupcake recipe we posted last year, complete with festive owlish decoration. Another simple option is to melt chocolate (chocolate chips work very well), fill it into a pastry bag, or a plastic zip bag with just the tip of one corner cut off, and drizzle it onto a parchment lined baking sheet in the shape of spiders. Let it cool until completely hardened in a cool place. These chocolate spiders can then be used in decoration on dessert or fruit salad.
Remember that these are just our personal experiences, neither of us is a medical professional, we are merely sharing our own knowledge. You are the leader of your own journey, and we strongly suggest that you check out the above links and choose for yourself. Let us know how it goes.