I have always always always loved Halloween. I have always loved dressing up. I love pretending. I love fall and pumpkins and witches and cobwebs and brooms. I loved trick-or-treating and getting stuff, but we live in the country and only drove to about 3 houses so it wasn't the 'loot' that you hear tell of most kids.
My mom has always rolled her eyes and said she hates all the the candy nonsense, and obviously when you're a kid you don't get it, but we also weren't bombarded with it in our house.
Being an adult now you 'get it' a bit more. You see the Halloween candy before Thanksgiving has even arrived. The grocery store aisles are almost literally piled to the ceiling with boxes and boxes of assorted chocolate bars from competing companies.
I can't pretend to imagine what it's like to have a kid who is allergic to peanuts in among all the fine print, but I do know what avoiding gluten and egg is like. And most everything contains gluten. Plus my adverse reactions to dairy that I usually ignore should be considered at this time of year, which nixes out pretty much everything but Skittles and Rockets.
Halloween parties at school were awkward because I knew I couldn't eat any of the stuff, but I wanted the stuff, and there was no other stuff, so I ate it anyway. I'm so thankful now that schools are taking food allergies and nutrition seriously and not handing out treats as rewards as was common when I was a kid.
I like having treats at Halloween, but eventually you have to ask yourself: Is it the candy or the holiday you love more?
If it's really the holiday, then there are LOADS of things to do that don't involve the sweets.
It it's the candy you're in it for, there are also lots of things you can do to cut down on the sugar content in your house, especially for the kids.
My treat bags this year consist of glow sticks, a pencil, potato chips and organic jelly beans.
Adults tend to roll their eyes at the Halloween toys out there, but handing out glow in the dark vampire teeth, goofy tattoos, bubbles, or spider rings ensures that you're the house on the block kids will remember.
If you live in a neighborhood, handing out pre-cracked glow sticks is not only fun, but is a safety measure for visibility as your kids walk the dark streets.
Making up a treat bag with a toy, chips and a small apple or juice box is a good way to be 'fun' while avoiding the mounds of sugar as well.
Raisins have a bad rep, but I loved getting them. They're sickly sweet but no added sugar.
A pack of sugar-free chewing gum will last a long time for the child you give it to, just also read the package for artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, which are harmful to your body over time.
If you really want the chocolate stuff to be part of Halloween, make the effort to find locally made or fair-trade products.
If you want to avoid food all together, you can join the Books for Treats movement to give out gently used children's books instead of candy. Ask friends and family if they're getting rid of any kids books or pre-teen novels, or even go to Garage sales and Value Village through the year and pick some small appropriate ones.
On Halloween organize them into boxes by age and let the kids choose their own book when they come to the door.
http://booksfortreats.org/ - for more information.
Homemade goods have become frowned upon to hand out at your door due to food allergies and the crazies in the world, but you can make then for your family and friends. Host a Halloween party for your kids and friends instead of going trick or treating and serve home made treats instead of setting out bowls of candy.
Make personal pizzas and decorate them into a spooky face before you bake.
Have olive 'eye balls' to snack on.
Make your own cookies or muffins and ice with plain or strawberry cream cheese.
Have carrot or cheese 'fingers' and serve them with creepy green guacamole.
I've seen pictures of "boo-nanas" being posted - half banana with chocolate/carob chip eyes and mouth stuck in.
Do Halloween crafts with your kids and make them just as, if not more, fun that the food treats.
Research and talk about the historical origins of All Hallows' Eve, to enforce that this holiday exists for a reason other than treats.
If you think your kid will balk at the idea of not being able to collect and eat their fill of candy the night of Halloween, keep in mind who their role models are. You can set an example of a 'one-a-day' treat, or alternatives to them.
If "That's what Halloween is!" at your house, then let them pick their favourites (healthiest ones?) out of the mix and encourage them to leave the rest for the Switch Witch, who will come late Halloween night to exchange the rest of their candy for a kick-ass toy.
In a time of obesity, mis-diagnosed ADD and increased awareness of food allergies, make the effort to turn 'Candy Day' back in to 'Halloween'.