Celiac disease and Halloween: Tips and tricks

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There is no need for your child to miss out on the excitement that comes with Halloween. Read about common gluten-free treats and fun Halloween activities for children with celiac disease.

Key points

  • Manage your child’s expectations by reviewing common gluten-free and gluten-containing treats with them before trick or treating.
  • Always read food labels. Products that are usually safe choices may not be gluten-free in special Halloween edition size treats.
  • Keep things positive during Halloween by participating in gluten-free or non-food related Halloween activities, such as carving pumpkins and choosing or creating Halloween costumes.

Ghosts, goblins and gluten—oh my! Many Halloween treats contain gluten, but this does not mean your child with celiac disease has to miss out on the fun of Halloween activities, such as trick or treating. Below are activities and safety tips that can help you prepare for Halloween.

  • Try fall-themed gluten-free or non-food related activities leading up to Halloween. For example, pick pumpkins and apples, carve pumpkins, bake gluten-free Halloween cookies or brainstorm and design Halloween costumes.
  • Speak with your child before Halloween to manage expectations. Review with your child which common treats are gluten-free and which are not. Celiac Canada regularly shares an annual Halloween Candy List before Halloween with common gluten-free and gluten-containing treats to review.
  • Tell your children not to eat any treats until you go through them together as a family. Check the candy together so that your child can learn which treats are gluten-free and which may contain gluten. This is a great way to practise label reading!
  • If you have young children, walk them up to the door and help them choose from the candy bowl.
  • Bring gluten-free snacks while trick or treating in case your child gets hungry.
  • Always read labels! Keep in mind that sometimes products that are usually gluten-free may not be in special Halloween edition sizes. Look for a gluten-free label or statement.
  • Often, smaller, individually wrapped Halloween treats do not have an ingredients list on the wrapper. In this case, the ingredients list would have been on the box or bag that packaged the treat. It is important to check directly with the manufacturers if you cannot find the product and nutrition facts information from the larger package. Do not rely on lists or online publications of gluten-free candy as they can change and may not be the most up to date.
  • Read the ingredients carefully for wheat, barley, and rye, and their related products. For example, some chocolates contain malt, which comes from barley and is not safe for people with celiac disease.
  • Buy back-up gluten-free treats or festive non-food Halloween crafts to make up for gluten-containing treats collected during trick or treating or at school. Some non-food Halloween treat ideas may include slime, vampire fangs, glow sticks, spider rings, spooky stickers, a Halloween colouring book or Halloween-themed pencils and erasers.
  • Donate gluten-containing candy to your local food bank or find Halloween candy buy-back programs in your area.
  • Treat swap! If your child has close neighbourhood friends, offer to swap your gluten-containing treats for their gluten-free treats.

#ShineATealLight initiative

The #ShineATealLight initiative is a Canadian Halloween campaign focused on bringing awareness to food allergies. Families will put a teal light on their front porch to let kids know they have allergy-friendly treats or non-food treats.

It is important to note that celiac disease is not a food allergy. Although wheat is recognized as a priority food allergen, barley and rye are not. Therefore, some of these “allergen-friendly” treats may still contain gluten. It is important to always read food labels.

Last updated: September 26th 2023