Parents commonly worry about kids overloading on unhealthy sweets at Halloween, and for families dealing with food allergies and sensitivities, the cause for alarm expands exponentially.
Marty Barnes, an Austin-area mom, has an 8-year-old daughter named Casey who has quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which means that she cannot swallow and gets all of her nutrition through a tube.
Barnes gets and gives support to other parents of children with complex medical conditions and developmental disabilities through a group called Mommies of Miracles, and she and her peers encourage families participating in the annual trick-or-treating traditions to consider offering some candy-free options for that bowl by the front door.
Beyond the medical conditions and food allergies, some kids are limited by things like orthodontic work. (That’s what has happened in my family: My kids are both in braces and can’t handle sticky things like caramels, nougats, marshmallows and gums, and no hard things like nuts, toffees and pretzels.)
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So, what are some better choices? At my house, we only stock candy my kids can have — plain chocolate bars, plain or peanut butter M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etc. We’ll also offer nonfood items like glow sticks, stickers, bubbles, temporary tattoos, erasers, fake teeth, pencils or small toys.
Kids who can eat all kinds of candy might actually want those treats instead. Plus, the good thing about nonfood items, says Barnes, is if you have leftovers, you can save them for next year.
Mommies of Miracles has a program on its website ( http://mommiesofmiracles.com) that helps you print out a sign to post on your door that says “Nonfood Treats Available Here.” You can also print out a sticker that says “Nonfood Items Only Please” for your child to wear, so you don’t have to spend the whole evening explaining why your child can’t take the candy.
For Halloween enthusiasts who want everyone to have fun, it’s easy to register your house in the Mommies of Miracles’ database to indicate that you have nonfood treats available, then trick-or-treaters can go there to research where local nonfood treats are. (In my ZIP code, I only found two, and one in a nearby ZIP code, but if I had a kid who truly couldn’t have candy, that still might be worth the drive.)
You also could go trick-or-treating and then see whether any local orthodontists or dentists will buy back your candy. I went to www.hall oweencandybuyback.com and found four in my ZIP code. Often the doctors pay per pound and then ship the candy, along with toothbrushes, to troops overseas. You’re getting paid for your hard work, plus doing a good deed.
That might be sweeter than candy.
HALLOWEEN PET SAFETY
With all the excitement of trick-or-treating and Halloween parties, pets have an increased chance of getting into trouble or harm’s way — possibly darting out into the street with all the visitors at the door or consuming dropped candy and treats that are downright dangerous for them.
Keeping your pet away from Halloween sweets is also important because so many favorites include chocolate, which is potentially toxic for dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death.
Other items we happily throw in our goodie bowls and consider healthy or benign also should be guarded when pets are sniffing around. Raisins, for instance, can cause a toxic reaction, and xylitol, an ingredient found in gum and candy, can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs.
Pawsitive party manners
Ask — and remind — guests not to feed the dog either candy or human food. A new interactive toy or long-lasting rawhide may keep your pup busy and out of temptation’s way.
If your dog gets extremely excited by doorbells or has a tendency to charge out the door if it’s left open longer than two seconds, keeping him with you and on a leash during trick-or-treat hours will take care of the problem.
Increase nighttime visibility with LED leashes, collars or harnesses, or look for the light-up Halloween outfits commonly found at local pet stores.
Before hitting the streets, make sure your dog is socialized around kids, adults and other animals.
Bring water and treats such as crunchy Blue Buffalo Boo Bars to reward your dog for good behavior and reduce the desire to go for kids’ candy.
Costume comfort and safety
A costume should never constrain or bother your pet. If your pet isn’t comfortable, try a strap-on costume that attaches loosely with snaps.
Once a costume fits properly, make sure your pet won’t trip on anything like a cape or ribbon. Check for little parts within chewing distance and keep identification tags on collars.
Throughout the evening, watch your pet and make adjustments as needed. You may need to cut or remove portions of the costume to increase a pet’s comfort. The most important part of the evening is your pet’s safety.
— Family Features
HEALTHIER TRICK-OR-TREAT OFFERINGS
• Cereal bars or single servings of cereal
• Snack packs of dried fruit, baked pretzels or nuts and seeds
• Animal crackers
• Individual servings of Goldfish crackers
• Beef or turkey jerky
• Fig cookies
• Sugar-free gum
• Mini boxes of raisins
• Applesauce or pudding cups
• Single-servings of low-fat microwave popcorn
• Packets of sugar-free hot chocolate or apple cider
According to Mommies of Miracles, you don’t have to have a child with special dietary needs — or even have a child at all — to help make trick-or-treating fun and safe for all. Simply include some nonfood items in your basket of goodies and register on the Mommies of Miracles website so local families seeking safer (and free-of-sweets) Halloween houses can find you on the Mommies of Miracles map. Check out the link at http://mommiesofmiracles.com/trick-or-treat.