Being a vegan parent means navigating all sorts of holiday eating with both planning and grace. For some reason, Halloween has always been one I worried about the most. Maybe it was because that I couldn’t communicate to every home my kids visited that we were vegan (like I could with birthday parties). Maybe it was because the event seemed entirely focused on food (assuming you can call “candy” a food). Maybe it was because I was battling my own childhood nostalgia for fun-sized Butterfingers.
No matter the reason, for my first five Halloweens as a parent, I was riddled with anxiety that this would be the year my son or daughter was disappointed about the candy they couldn’t eat. And every year I was proven wrong as my kids had a joyful Halloween with no worries about non-vegan candy. Now as we go into our sixth Halloween I have some strategies that make this spooky holiday far more fun than I could ever have imagined.
Use the PETA list
I get overwhelmed reading candy labels because of all the junk that is in them. So when it comes to figuring out if a candy is vegan, I go to the trusty PETA “Vegan Candy” list. That way I don’t have to scour EVERY ingredient list!
Have fun sorting
One of the biggest surprises last Halloween was how much my son (then four) loved sorting his candy! In fact, he thinks that sorting candy into vegan and not-vegan is as much a Halloween ritual as trick-or-treating. I originally thought I would have to sort out his candy on the sly, but now I know that it is more fun if he is part of the process and gets to see what an abundance of candy he still gets as a vegan kiddo.
Have a trade-in treat ready
Of course, I also want to be prepared for years when there are far more milk-chocolate “fun bars” than Skittles or Jolly Ranchers. In previous years, my kids could “trade-in” their non-vegan candy for cookies I baked. Of course, they had so much fun with the candy they got that we never bothered doing a trade, and I ate all the cookies myself (Happy Halloween to me)! Now I just pull out some of our own trick-or-treat stash (all vegan) to have ready in case the kids are feeling deprived and need a “trade-in.” No matter if baked goods are your thing, or you would rather just buy extra fun-sized Skittles, have some extra treats ready so that your kids can “trade-in” their non-vegan candy for some vegan goodies.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Normally we don’t have high-fructose corn syrup, red dye #40, or any of those common candy ingredients chemicals in our home. But on Halloween we let loose and let the kids have their treats. Twizzlers are always a favorite for the kiddos, and although I cringe when I see their red teeth, I let it go because it’s just one night a year. I’m happy to focus on managing the non-vegan candy load and live with the other “forbidden” parts of the candy circus.
Focus on the event
This is a tip that my kids taught me. For so long, be it Halloween or birthday parties, social events with food would raise my anxiety, and I would be overly worried about my vegan kids feeling deprived. The truth is that my kids are far better than me at figuring out what matters: the event and celebration itself. My kids love trick-or-treating because they get to dress up, visit neighbors and stay out after dark. They love getting candy because it is a special treat, even if they can’t eat half of it. They love sorting their candy, trading candy with each other, and competing over who can make their candy last the longest by having just one piece a day. The fact that they don’t eat the candy with animal products is barely on their radar because they are so busy enjoying the rest of the event.
This is the lesson my kids have taught me: Enjoy the event, enjoy each other, have a good time, and the rest will work itself out. This Halloween I won’t be worrying about how to deal with non-vegan candy. Instead, I will be working on some fun costume surprises!