If your child is following a special diet, or you just don’t want them to eat junk, you might be dreading Halloween, or even wondering if you should go trick or treating at all.
For kids with food allergens and intolerances, trying to sort through the gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs is tough enough. And then there’s all that sugar, sugar, and more sugar. But worst of all – the artificial and genetically modified ingredients:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial dyes and colors
- Artificial flavors
- Vanillin (the evil sounding artificial vanilla)
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Genetically modified corn syrup
- Genetically modified beet sugar under the name of “sugar,” sucrose, and even “real sugar”
- Genetically modified and pesticide-laden cottonseed oil
- and much more
But don’t fret, I’ve got a solution for you – that will let you and your kid(s) go out and collect all the junk food you want. I tried it last year and it worked like a charm! And, like many great food/kid ideas, this one came from an autism mom. Note: you won’t actually eat all that junk food.
The Switch Witch
The premise: there’s a special witch (of similar relation to the Tooth Fairy) that only “works” on Halloween, she’s called the Switch Witch – and she likes to collect candy from children. Your child trades their bag of collected Halloween candy for some other treat – maybe a toy from the store, or a diet-compliant goodie (or some other special gift you arrange). They can switch their junk for bling!
Depending on your child’s Halloween expectations, you may want to have some treat ready upon arriving back home (from trick or treating). This way they get something immediately, and can still exchange their entire bag with the Switch Witch. Some quick snack ideas are: a GFCF chocolate square, decorated banana ghosts (idea from Pinterest last year), or other diet-compatible treat.
If your child (or you!) will be tempted by each candy put into their Halloween bag, consider bringing along a natural lollipop during trick or treating. This photo from several years ago when my daughter triumphantly unwrapped a lollipop, and stole a lick. She quickly put it back in her plastic pumpkin candy collector, for exchange with the Switch Witch later, but that stirred the idea of coming prepared – since in-the-moment temptation can be strong.
Kids can anticipate an upcoming opportunity for a treat or special gift, so be sure to arrange this at least a day or so beforehand. Create your own Switch Witch story and work out your child’s “deal” for exchanging their collected candies. I’ve already reminded my daughter twice that the Switch Witch is going to trade her candy for a toy, so she has no expectation (and hopefully no temptation) of eating the junk herself.
Setting things up strong, with the promise of a special treat or toy to look forward to, makes the whole idea and practice pretty easy.
Our plan is to exchange one item (for a healthier treat) Halloween evening, then to leave the candy stash out overnight, so the Switch Witch can “switch” things overnight – in the morning the surprise will have occurred and the replacement item is there! In our case, we know the item she wants and can get it ahead of time.
If you plan to forgo any treat on Halloween night, you might make the deal ahead of time and switch the candy for the toy when you return home. To maintain the secret, make sure the toy is put away immediately upon purchase, so it’s new and novel when you make the switch.
Another helpful strategy (especially for young children) is to teach them EARLY that they (we) just don’t eat this junk. At age two, my daughter understood that… while other kids might eat brightly colored rainbow lollipops or candy, that she does not. I taught her that such things are “artificial,” and that she is “natural” – and that we choose to eat only natural foods (that help us grow and be strong). By age 4, she was well practiced at speaking the multi-syllabic offender “ar-ti-fi-cial” and asking adults before eating candy if it’s artificial, but remained confused as to why other kids and parents eat “artificials.” It really made no sense to her, nor to me, really. She was able to explain that she can tell when the candy is “light or bright” colored, that it’s artificial and she “will not eat it.” She would proudly throw it away and told me all about it. Now, at 12, she has more control over what she eats and has been able to connect these ingredients with not feeling great – physically and mentally.
I highly recommend teaching this early, and it’s never too late to learn. Such conversations are wrapped in larger context about appreciating her body, being healthy, eating “growing foods” that make her strong, and choosing NOT to eat foods that have artificials, because those things are not good for her body. While I don’t want her to be afraid of artificials nor to think or behave badly toward people that have them or eat them, I DO want her to learn to make smarter and empowered CHOICES about what to eat and not eat. And that’s exactly what has happened as she has gotten older and can prepare and/or choose foods, snacks, and treats even when I am not around.
The Switch Witch has become this parent’s friend.