Teal Pumpkin Project Candy Alternatives for Halloween

Teal Pumpkin Project LogoUPDATE, October 5, 2015:  A new effort was launched last year with the aim of protecting children who have health issues that make Halloween candy (any candy) a serious risk. This effort is called the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can learn more about it here:  Teal Pumpkin Project. That page also has a link where people can get teal pumpkin window clings in exchange for a donation to FARE (Food Allergy Resource and Education.) 

Since no single food item would be safe for every child and/or every health condition, the Teal Pumpkin Project encourages everyone to hand out non-food items. Those who choose to distribute non-food goodies are asked to place a teal pumpkin on their front porch (or a picture of one on their front door) to indicate they are not distributing food items.

This approach is one I’ve endorsed and encouraged for many years. The article that follows provides a list of non-food alternatives that are inexpensive and safe. 

Please note that the TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

I’ve shared some of this information before. It was met with snorts of laughter and threats to toilet paper my house. I’m ok with that.

It’s that time of year when fall is in the air and kids aged 2-90 across the US are excitedly planning their costumes. Most families I know put far more thought into costumes than they put into selectively choosing treats to distribute to trick-or-treaters. This concerns me. Following are a few quick reasons why it is so important to carefully plan what we put in our Halloween treat bowls:Crossed Out Halloween Bowl

  • Every teaspoon of sugar decreases immunity for 2-4 hours. Think the weather causes kids to get sick around the holidays? Think again! I have pediatrician friends who tell me they can count on having packed offices starting the first weeks of November … immediately following Halloween. There is a connection between sugar consumption and illness.
  • Food allergies are on the rise: Some day when you have absolutely nothing better to do, wander down the candy aisle and read labels. You’ll be amazed how many candies contain more than one of the top seven allergens: dairy, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts. Almost all chocolate contains dairy, and wheat flour is often used as a thickener. (Twizzlers candy contains wheat. You must read labels.) I realize it is not your responsibility to protect kids who have food allergies, but why not choose a treat that presents fewer risks? For the record, most parents of kids with food allergies don’t let their kids trick-or-treat or only take their kids to homes of friends and family who have approved treats. I’m also encouraged that many allergy-support groups host allergy-free Halloween parties for kids affected by food allergies.
  • Almost all candy contains Genetically Modified ingredients: 90% of corn and sugar beets grown in the US are genetically modified. Why is this a problem? Because inserting gene particles from insects or other plant species into a plant’s existing gene structure is extremely dangerous. Additionally, when our bodies are subjected to foods having genetic structures our bodies were not designed to recognize, our bodies react by launching an allergic attack. Food allergies and digestive disorders have skyrocketed since genetically modified foods were introduced. Please visit the Institute for Responsible Technology website for in-depth education on the dangers of GMO’s and the scientific studies that prove those dangers.

So what can you give that kids will love but that won’t have the potential to cause negative health effects? My favorite alternatives follow. For safety, it may be wise to tell kids if an item is not edible:

  • Skip Halloween and hold a fundraiser for starving children instead: People in the US spend an average of $80 per person on Halloween festivities. Imagine the powerful change that could occur if we celebrated by donating that money to a worthy charity instead.
  • Nickels or Dimes: Depending on what you buy and where you shop, distributing nickels or dimes can be cheaper than buying candy.
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Coupons for kid-friendly activities
  • Tiny toys: Pick up toys sold for insertion in birthday treat bags, or check out the Oriental Trading Company for oodles of great options at a low cost. (Put together a large order with several friends to decrease shipping costs. That way you can divvy up the toys so that you have a wider variety, too.)
  • Stickers
  • Colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc.: If time allows, let the kids pick their own. Little kids actually love this and get excited about it! Older kids may not visibly show they like it, but most do.
  • Patterned shoe laces: Some stores sell these in bulk at a great price.
  • Tiny containers of glitter. (Moms hate this one.)
  • Character erasers: Please be sure to tell kids these are NOT edible for safety’s sake.
  • Glow sticks or glow jewelry (added bonus is that these increase visibility)

Wander the aisles of dollar stores and craft stores for additional ideas.

Ok … GO! What other candy-free ideas for goodies can you share? Please share in the comments!


Photo courtesy of John Puett

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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3 Responses to Teal Pumpkin Project Candy Alternatives for Halloween

  1. Her says:

    Glow sticks or glow jewelry. Not only is it not likely to elicit a “trick”, but if they wear it while trick or treating helps increase visibility and safety.

  2. Great article! We don’t get trick or treaters where we live as our house is away from the street in a rural area. But when we did, I gave out the types of things you list here. As a foster mom who was not in as much control as what the little one was given, I had a system worked out. I would offer to trade the candy for something better. He almost always chose the alternative! So what I would add is how about creating a “station” where kids and their parents can go to trade candy for something better?

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