How To Trick or Treat with a Food Restriction

An experienced mom of 2 girls with special needs shares her best ideas about how to trick or treat with a food restriction.

Only two more weeks until Halloween and Nancy Flanders is here with a few tricks for parents of kids with food restrictions. Take a look at her suggestions and see which ones could work for you on October 31.

How To Trick or Treat with a Food Restriction

Halloween is just around the corner and millions of households will be taken over by candy. So much delicious candy!  But for some families, the debate isn’t about how much or how little to eat in a sitting, but how that candy will affect their child’s health and life. Conditions like food allergies and diabetes are cause for serious concern around Halloween, but having a strategic plan can help.

Trick-or-Treat with Care

Sit down with your family and make a set of rules for the evening. Make sure your child is well supervised if she isn’t old enough to be trusted with the rules on her own. Don’t let her eat any candy until she gets home when you will sit down together to go through the candy and check for allergy or carb count dangers. If your child has a condition like cystic fibrosis, you can give her an enzyme or two before she heads out to trick-or-treat or agree that she has to wait until she gets home to eat any candy.

Talk to the Neighbors

It really does take a village. If your neighbors and friends don’t know about your child’s diet restrictions, this is the perfect chance to inform them. You can give them certain candy or safe treats that they can have on hand to give to your child when she rings their doorbell.  In this case, stick to trick-or-treating at the homes of those who know your child best.

Pull a Trick of Your Own

If your child is too young to understand why she can’t have certain candies, she probably won’t notice if you swap out her Halloween bag with an identical one full of treats and toys you picked out. It’s sneaky, but will keep your child safe.

Don’t Trick-or-Treat

Rather than trick-or-treating, host a party at home. For children with diet restrictions this is the best way to control their candy type and amount without having to take any candy away from them. For the child with diabetes, you can have sugar-free candy available. For the child with nut allergies you can make sure there is only candy without nuts in your home. The child with Prader-Willi syndrome can also be well monitored during a party at home with a small amount of treats. So in the end you aren’t the bad guy, but the good guy who let them have a party.

Any Tricks Up Your Sleeve?

Those are the tricks Nancy’s developed over the years. How about you? What diet restriction tips are up your sleeves? Leave a comment about your child’s restrictions and what works for you.

Nancy Flanders is a wife and mother of two girls, one with cystic fibrosis. After her daughter’s diagnosis at just 6 days old, she altered her career path to focus on writing about raising a child with a special health need. She spends any free moment she can find fundraising for a cure for her daughter and volunteering for her hospital’s cystic fibrosis advisory group. Visit Nancy at and

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15 Responses to “How To Trick or Treat with a Food Restriction”

  1. Diane Seely says:

    Thank you for your blog on this topic! I am a mother of five, my youngest son was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome at 4 weeks old. PWS is a genetic condition that is characterized by low muscle tone, cognitive impairment, and many other difficulties — too many to list here. The major medical concern is the Hyperphagia = means that the individual will have an uncontrollable hunger. PWS is the most common genetic cause of morbid obesity. Those with PWS cannot burn off calories as quickly as a “typical” child, therefore our son is on a careful diet. I have since day one monitored his food intake, counted calories and kept a journal of every morsel. We are careful to be certain that he is getting the most from the calories he consumes. Our family has changed the way we eat — we now read labels, cook healthy meals six nights a week. We are so much more “thoughtful” in what we eat. Halloween is more trick than treat for me…I want him to be a kid and go door to door, but there is a part of me that cringes at the thought if it! His first two years we opted out completely. But the reality is that I can’t hide my son from the world. What we have decided is that he can go to a few houses, we keep it to a minimum of five or six houses. We start with neighbors who are aware of his condition. They understand and therefore give out one small piece of candy. We purchase organic no sugar treats for his relatives to hand out. So far, so good. However, we have not started the insatiable appetite yet. What then? Wish I knew the answer…

  2. Janis Tull Williams says:

    I have a 10-year-old daughter with Prader-Willi Syndrome and am always looking for good ideas on how to deal with Halloween. Worst holiday in the world at our house. For years, we just didnt participate, until she started school and was made aware of it. Got away with controlled trick or treating the first two years, but then she found out you could get lots of candy from other people. This year, she wants to hand out candy and I am not sure of her motivation. What will her evening be like sitting there with the bowl of candy waiting for trick or treaters. Is she going to keep asking for one. We will see this year.

  3. CurePWS says:

    Thanks for these suggestions! I have a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome & another with a peanut allergy. We’re super strict about sweets, but on Halloween we let them pick couple pieces of candy. They then trade the rest of the candy for a goody basket of toys or a movie they want. We also give out little toys so they get to play with those when they get home too. They haven’t complained our tradition so far!

  4. Jolene says:

    Thanks, Diane, Janis, and Jess for your suggestions about Halloween with kids who have PWS. And thanks, Diane, for educating us about the syndrome. From what you’ve all written, your children are blessed to have parents who balance limitations and childhood joys with wisdom.


  5. 2boys says:

    I have a 4 1/2 year-old with Prader-Willi Syndrome. We have always allowed him to go trick-or-treating (highly supervised). He is allowed to pick 1 treat when we get home and the rest goes on the front pitch for the Great Pumpkin. Whe he wakes up, he has a small present in place of the candy! Wr now have a 1 year-old and the same rules will apply to him. For school trick-or-treating, I have sent in bags of freeze dried fruit or organic lollipop for teachers/therapists to give him, in place of their candy. This year, he told me he doesn’t want food in his treat bags, so I not arguing! Also, we never hand out food. We have done Halloween tattoos, coupons for free sundae at Friendly’s (got them by donating money Easter Seals) and make-your-own-bag of cheap toys.

  6. Jolene says:

    Dear Cindy,

    Thanks for more excellent suggestions.


  7. Ali says:

    Hi there!
    Thank you for this article and for mentioning Prader-Willi syndrome! I have 3 little boys, the second of whom has PWS and my first has a peanut allergy. So Halloween is a little tricky for us. I think this year we are going to try limited trick-or-treating, then one piece of something good each and then it gets traded for a toy the next day. I want them to be a part of what’s going on while making sure it is obviously a safe holiday for them!

    Oh, and I mentioned this site and this post in particular on my blog at Thank you for this resource!!

  8. Great suggestions! My son Tyler has diabetes and celiac disease and my son Blaine has a Sensory Integration Disorder so they each have separate needs. After my husband was came home from Iraq with a brain injury we stopped going to large festivals at churches and started trick or treating in our neighborhood. This has really simplified the special needs of all three! It is less chaos and easier to monitor intake.

    I do try to take the attitude of “managing” the medical issues rather than one of “control”. This helps me keep the fear out and the fun in. Usually I look through the bags as we walk, joking with the kids or casually eyeing what goes in to keep the mood light,rather than controlling.

    I also switch out treats when we get home. We save the “all sugar” treats for when Tyler has low Blood glucose levels, and give a little insulin for a couple chocolate treats which are good after our walk. (Insulin pumps are wonderful!). Since it is low key time enjoying each other’s company, I can watch for treats that are not gluten free or will kick up the sensory issues.

    Also we don’t stay out too long. We walk until the kids are satisfied,using “check points” around the neighborhood to be sure to save energy for the walk home. This helps them learn to listen to thier bodies and understand that less is more, sometimes.

    I periodically remind myself to adjust my own expectations and simply enjoy time with my very special family. It is a process and I learn more every day; thanks so much for the wonderful ideas!

  9. After reading all the comments I had another thought. Yesterday Tyler, who is 12, asked me why the world can’t just be gluten free. We had a good conversation about how we try to have alternatives at home, but that we have to learn how to make wise choices when we are out in the world.

    Even us grown ups have to learn to say “No” to ourselves when something is not good for us. He’s 12 now, so he is old enough to ponder these things. When they are younger, we have to do the best with what we have- which is why sites like these are so important for idea sharing!! Thanks Jolene for making this forum available!

  10. Joy Key says:

    My daughter has Prader-willi syndrome…Halloween is a trick…it is a dread for us. When she waS young we took her around the neighbors we knew and always had a present waiting at get her excited to get done..(dollar tree presents)..while we let her pick 1 piece of candy and put all the rest away…she seemed she got older I made treat bags and sealed them up for her to give out and always had one for her with things she could have. Now she is older, we leave the house and go out to eat..staying with diet restrictions…then trip to dollar store..we get home after it all over with and she is happy with getting out and few things from dollar tree.. but seriously wish this holiday would go away.. but she is happy with our arrangements…

  11. Jolene says:

    Your frustration with the holiday is understandable, Joy. Even when you develop good strategies, it’s never easy, is it?


  12. Alisha says:

    I too have a son with PWS. He is 4 now and this will be his 3rd trick ro treat. I am happy to read all the great ideas not only from the writer but other parents. We are still at a point where he doesn’t fully understand the holiday but I know that will only get worse. Hopefully setting things in place now and starting our own traditions will help our children later. I love the fact that people are finally becoming more aware that not everyone is the same.. not everyone can enjoy the same things as everyone else. One step towards more awareness! Keep it up!

  13. Nancy says:

    Thanks so much to you all for sharing your tips and insight. My daughter has cystic fibrosis. We have the opposite problem that families with PWS have – she has to eat about twice as many calories as a “normal” 2 year old! We sneak in extra calories and she has to take pills with everything she eats or drinks otherwise she wouldn’t absorb any of it. Through it all, it’s amazing what our kids can live with and deal with every day and rarely complain!

  14. Merijo says:

    My daughter with PWS is going to be 13 yrs old this year. She is a mother hen type and has always been accepting of handing out candy from our home in exchange for one candy selection from our offerings. Usually she will pick a smarty candy and I place it up high until all her handing out is complete. This is also rewarding for her because she gets to see all the babies in costume.

  15. Jolene says:

    What a great idea, Merijo. Thanks for adding it to the discussion!

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