Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Hailey Motooka, BS, Becca Malizia, BS
Halloween is an exciting time of year for children of all ages who look forward to dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and eating lots of candy. However, for children who have to navigate Halloween with an autoimmune disease, October 31st can feel more like a trick than a treat.
Reducing or eliminating sugar intake is a highly recommended dietary change for individuals suffering from autoimmune conditions. This diet restriction is challenging at all times of the year but especially around Halloween, where candy fills up every grocery store and drugstore aisle.
We understand the temptation, and we also understand the frustration of not being able to indulge in artificial food colors and high-fructose corn syrup. However, there are many other ways to enjoy and participate in the haunting festivities and celebrate Halloween with autoimmune disease. One way to do this is to keep an eye out for teal pumpkins while trick-or-treating (if your neighborhood is participating in safe trick-or-treating). The Teal Pumpkin Project involves placing a teal painted pumpkin outside on the doorstep to show that there are safe, non-food alternatives such as stickers, small toys, bouncy balls, etc. to promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters.
Another way to enjoy Halloween with an autoimmune disease is to try out some Halloween-inspired recipes. Here are some of our favorites to put you into the spooky spirit!
Treats to Celebrate Halloween with an Autoimmune Disease
Paleo Date Pumpkin Bars
Get your kids involved in the kitchen and try these paleo date pumpkin bars for a deliciously sweet and nutritious treat.
Roasted (Non-Dairy) Ranch Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin carving is another great Halloween activity that kids with autoimmune disease can take part in. You can even head over to a pumpkin patch to handpick a pumpkin for carving. Before carving a face into a pumpkin, you first have to scrape out the insides and when you do, save the seeds! They can be roasted and seasoned into a delectable snack.
Bloody Roasted Beet Dip
This beet dip is a fantastic recipe for those following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. The vibrant hue of the beets also gives a pop of color to any Halloween party feast.
Recipe: Autoimmune Wellness
Keep in mind, these recipes are simply healthy autoimmune friendly suggestions. However, if your child is intent on trick-or-treating with friends and fellow classmates, then it is important to know which candies are suitable to eat depending on your child’s type of food sensitivity. For example, the Celiac Disease Foundation has compiled a list of Halloween candies that are considered to be gluten-free by their major United States manufacturers.
Some candies are also worse for gastrointestinal health than others. The three worst candies that should probably be avoided are:
- Milk chocolate
- Sugar-free candy with sugar substitutes
- Licorice & Candy Corn (overly processed)
Having to follow a restrictive diet is hard, especially during the holidays when everyone seems to break their diets to indulge in candies and desserts. The great thing about Halloween is that there is so much more to the festivities than just candy! Dress up with friends, scare your neighbor, carve a pumpkin, or just stay inside and re-watch Hocus Pocus in the dark. Or even better, choose to take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project by going to the store, purchasing a pack of glow sticks, and painting a pumpkin teal to ensure that all costumed trick-or-treaters can leave your doorstep with a truly unique treat.
How do you celebrate Halloween with an autoimmune disease? Let us know in the comments below!