How and Why We Gave Up Trick-or-Treating – It’s Not What You Expect

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Do you celebrate Halloween? Find out How and Why one mom stopped Trick-or-Treating.

{Today, please welcome back Andrea Fabry of It-Takes-Time. Andrea’s sharing about Why Her Family Stopped Celebrating Halloween. It’s not what you expect.  And it’s for sure worth thinking about.  }

My kids trick-or-treated for the last time in 2008. As a mother of nine children ranging in age from 7-23, I had been supervising trick-or-treating for 20+ years. I expected to continue until my last child was too old to dress up.

Of course I never liked the candy component of Halloween (what mother does?) but felt powerless to fight it.

Our First Attempt at Going Sugar-Free

At one point in my parenting career I tried to cut our sugar consumption but failed. I came across as compulsive and mean. My kids felt like outsiders and resented the changes. I put my “health kick” on hold and returned to the fast food/high-sugar culture.

In retrospect I’m glad I let go. I was operating from a place of fear rather than love, and my kids felt it.

Besides, my kids were relatively healthy at the time. Sometimes a balanced approach is better than an extreme one when kids are stable.

What Made Us Finally Go Sugar-Free

However, everything changed in 2007 when serious health issues emerged. 7-year-old Colin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, 11-year-old Reagan became debilitated with severe balance/vertigo issues, 6-year-old Brandon became unmanageable with behavioral problems, and 9-year-old Kaitlyn was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency.

All of us were suffering in one way or another.

It would take 9 months and 60 doctors to connect the illnesses with a recent mold remediation.

When the pieces of the puzzle came together in the spring of 2008, we tried to fix our house. But our health issues continued, and upon the advice of a toxicologist we vacated the home and everything in it on October 4, 2008. (Read more about the night we left in the post “The Suit on the Leather Chair.”)

Upon leaving the home, we were forced to reevaluate every aspect of our lives including our food choices.

We didn’t implement anything immediately. The kids trick-or-treated as usual that first Halloween.

The next day Colin’s blood sugar spiked, Brandon’s behavior declined, and Reagan’s vertigo returned.

That’s when it hit me.

The year prior, Reagan’s vertigo escalated the day after Halloween! His trick-or-treating catapulted him into multiple emergency rooms, misdiagnoses, and surgeries. (See “Reagan’s Story.”)

Do you celebrate Halloween? Find out How and Why one mom stopped Trick-or-Treating.

A photo of Andrea’s daughter from their last Halloween.

Sugar had to go.

It didn’t happen overnight. We slowly traded processed treats for less processed ones. We bought organic chips and energy bars.

Sugar and the Immune System

I began studying the immune system and the impact of sugar. I learned that:

• American children today are consuming about 10 times the amount of sugar as they were in 1800.
• Metabolizing one molecule of sugar requires more than 50 molecules of magnesium.
• Sugar binds to hormone receptors, jamming them, which over time may lead to insulin resistance.
• Sugar triggers the release of endogenous opiates in the brain, easily setting a child up for addictive behaviors.

By the time trick-or-treating rolled around in 2009, my kids had adjusted to our new lifestyle. We were finding new ways to celebrate holidays – including Halloween. We let them pick out something fun at the store. We made healthier treats using fruit, squash and stevia. We carved pumpkins and even peppers. (See “Healthy Fall Fun: Carved Peppers.”)

We discovered that we can have fun without all the sugar.

What do my kids think about the changes? Here’s what Brandon (now 12 years old) says:

“I can’t say I really miss the candy, because I don’t. I appreciate Halloween because I get something on that day anyway, so it’s all the same to me.”

Colin (now 13 years old) has written his thoughts in a post titled The Last Trick-or-Treat, excerpted below:

And now, 5 years later, about to celebrate our 6th non-candy Halloween, I don’t even miss it. When I do, I think of how bad and sick I felt afterwards, and then the rest is easy. And yet some may ask, ‘How did you let go of something like that?’ The answer is easy. Because I needed to.

Humans, if you think about it, ALWAYS have let go of things that no other humans thought possible. It is in the most desperate situations, the most dire circumstances, that we humans see most clearly. We see the things we must keep and the things we must get rid of. In our case, we HAD to get rid of the sweet, delicious, gut-killing, sugary but still INCREDIBLY good candies that A LOT of America thrives on.

Halloween Without Sugar

So, in conclusion, though October 31st, 2008 was our last trick-or-treat Halloween, it was not our last Halloween. Now, I look forward to being able to spend $15 at Walmart to purchase a movie and one other thing. And now, I prefer our Halloween over our holidays back then, back when we were nearly dead and what we were eating was killing us. Now we are nothing but nurtured, and cared for by our healthy-living, healthy-eating lifestyle.”

My kids trick-or-treated for the last time in 2008. We gave up sugar to help us become healthier. We haven’t given up on life or enjoying food; we’re embracing both.

Looking for healthier options to hand out to children? Consider these 10 suggestions.

{From Adrienne:  We stopped Trick-or-Treating a long time ago as well. Typically we watch a movie and make something to munch on, like:

- Dorito® Popcorn
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles or
- No Bake Coconut Delights

Do YOU celebrate Halloween or go Trick-or-Treating?  Why or why not?

Andrea Fabry - A woman dedicated to detoxifying her family for health's sake.Andrea Fabry – A woman dedicated to detoxifying her family for health’s sake. Andrea is a former journalist and the mother of nine children ranging in age from 28 to 12. Following a toxic mold exposure, Andrea and her family discovered the wonders of natural living. Andrea is the founder and president of momsAWARE, an educational organization designed to empower others to live healthy in a toxic world. You can follow her family’s journey at It Takes Time. She is also the owner of Just SoNatural Products.

Shared at The Prairie Homestead, The Better Mom, Real Food Forager, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, Chef in Training, Intentionally Domestic, Not Just a Housewife, Nap Time Creations, Raising Homemakers, My Humble Kitchen, Rattlebridge Farm, and Skip to My Lou.
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  1. What about naturally sweetened treats made from raw honey, or coconut palm sugar, or dates, or even sucanat or raspadura?

    Are those still ok to eat for your family?

    I gave up sugar last September (2012) and have been really good. Little by little, I introduced raw honey, and then coconut palm sugar, and even real sugar (raspadura and sucanat) back into things. I make homemade chocolates with raw cacao, coconut oil, and raw honey, with sea salt and homemade vanilla extract. We can still have treats (yummy treats!) without processed sugar. :)

    • Rebecca,
      Coconut sugar and raw honey are 2 of my top choices for natural sweeteners. We also enjoy stevia – as raw as we can find it. The way I see it, sweeteners in nature appear in small doses which translates nicely for us. We love raw cacao and coconut oil treats!

      • I just came across your website researching doterra. I’m so glad I found you! I’ve spent all day (off & on, i have a baby & toddler) reading your blogs. I will forever come to you for natural solutions as you seem REAL! I would love to go sugar free! Do you have any information on 1st approach?

        • Hi Vanessa. Not sure if you are asking me or Andrea so maybe we will both reply :). I started just getting stevia and other low glycemic sweeteners and got the sugar out of my house. You can go cold turkey or slowly but anything will help. Blessings! You’ll be glad you did it!

          • Andrea Fabry says:

            Vanessa,
            We worked up to it. When it came time to go sugar-free I explained as best I could exactly why we were going to try 3 months without sugar (and grains at the time)….I felt it was best to set a date so that the kids didn’t feel it was “for the rest of their lives.” Everyone felt so much better we never went back. It really did help to get it completely out of the house.

  2. So, do you still do costumes? I’m trying to sort this all out with my kids. They are pretty young so they won’t miss trick-or-treating but all of our friends talk about costumes & want to get together for playgroups, dress up & do mini Halloween parties (not to mention the Harvest party at church that has a 2 bags of candy admission tag). I am sorting out how to navigate safe foods & we obviously won’t be doing the Harvest party but I’ve wondered about a way to do the costume part. That and how do I deal with all of the trick-or-treaters showing up at my door & explaining to him why he doesn’t get to go out?

    • I suggest a Halloween party where the treats are natural and healthy. I assume that just because you don’t do trick or treat that you can still do parties. Have a costume party where your kids can invite their friends in costumes and have fun activities such as games and ghost stories and do healthy activities.

      In the old days, apples were always making an appearance at Halloween parties. Many of us had bushels of apples left over from harvest, which were put into use as edible props for Halloween games. So what can you do with an apple?

      Bite the apple is always great for a few laughs. With this activity, a large apple is strung from the ceiling, and the guests take turns trying to bite into it without using their hands. It’s practically impossible to do, since the apple wants to swing all over the place. Apple dunking is another innovative way of trying the eat an apple without using hands. For this activity, a dozen of apples are tossed into a large wash basin which is been filled with icy, cold water. Expect a lot of wet kids with this game! Apple peeling games are a traditional favorite. One variation has the children trying to peel the apple in one continuous strand, or even racing to see who can peel the apple the fastest. For apple peel divining have the kids throw that long loop of apple peel over their shoulder. The peel will drop to the ground, which, with a stretch of imagination resembles a cursive letter. What ever the letter is, that’s the first letter of the name of their future wife/husband.

      And let’s not forget making caramel apples as an event; more activity than game, the children insert a popsicle stick in the center of an apple, then dip the apple in melted caramel, I am assuming there are healthy alternatives to caramel. After the apple has been coated with the caramel, it should be quickly rolled through a pile of chopped walnuts. Set the apple aside to harden for at least 30 minutes, then wrap with cellophane to send home as an edible party favor.

      Orange Relays or Pass the Orange is a silly game that has children passing an orange around the room. The trick of course, is that hands must be clasped behind the back! The children can be set up in two lines and race against each other, or the orange can be passed around in a circle.

      Building scarecrows is an old fashioned activity that relies heavily on the imagination. Divide the kids into groups of four, and have them build a scarecrow from items that you have dumped in the center of the room. Bags of burlap, piles of straw, markers, and lots of old clothes and hats are the basic ingredients. Give them 15 minutes to create the scarecrows, and then vote on the best looking scarecrow of all.

      For a game that is as silly to watch as it is to play, not much can top Push the Peanut. This slow moving game has the kids racing against each other to push the peanut across the finish line. There is a catch, of course ~ the peanut has to be pushed using their noses.

      Remember no hands pie eating contests? Make up a batch of pumpkin pies topped with whipped cream and race to see who finishes the pie first. Since a great deal of food will be wasted with this game ~ our moms usually left out the crust, and distributed a single recipe of batter around 6 pie tins. After the pies came out of the oven, they would be topped with mountains of light & fluffy whipped cream.

      For outside games, traditional favorites always seemed to be some kind of crazy race. Three legged races and sack races are standard favorites. Wheelbarrow races are a silly variation in which one child is held by the legs like a wheelbarrow and pushed towards the finish line by a second child. If you have a long driveway tricycle races are also lots of silly fun.

      One of my favorite races were Water Races. This game has kids transporting a cup of water from one end of the yard to the other, a tablespoon at a time. The cups of water are placed on a table behind the guests, who have to dip their spoons into the cup, race across the yard with their tablespoons of water, and dump it into a second cup. The winner is the person who has the most water in the cup at the end of the race.

      Most old fashioned Halloween parties had a Fortune Telling booth. Fortune telling added an element of spookiness to the parties, and were wildly popular. Fortune telling booths should be set in a quiet and darkened room away from the noise & activity of the party. Lit candles set the mood, as well as a few fortune telling props ~ such as cards, a crystal ball, or tea leaves. To add to the thrill, the fortune teller should be heavily costumed so none of the children suspect that she’s really someone’s Mom.

      Party Favors

      For a party souvenir, why not take some spooky photographs? Polaroid or digital pictures can be taken against the backdrop of an old door or screen, or while sitting on the hay bales next to a spooky skeleton. For a whimsical frame, press the photographs into a orange construction paper pumpkin.

      When the bewitching hour is finally over, and it time for all your guests to leave, pass out some hand decorated Trick or Treat bags. The bags will help the children collect their prizes and candied apples, and keep them safe so they can be carried home easily. Don’t forget to add a few treats of your own! Handmade popcorn balls or Spooky Rice Krispy treats made with sugar free alternatives some even found on this site, and some Halloween pencils or stickers are great parting gifts.

    • Andrea Fabry says:

      We still had the kids dress up for any church or school events. If they have any class or church party we let them take their favorite treats so they have something to look forward to.

      We hand out fun toys and gadgets for Trick or Treaters. In the article, I have a link to some of the items we hand out. (Glow sticks are the best!)

  3. What an inspiring story. I appreciate the sugar facts and the link to non-candy treats.

  4. I ditched sugar, wheat, dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and fruit from my diet 11 years ago. I also go to sleep around 10 or 11 pm and I don’t drink alcohol. Yep, I am pretty much the EXACT opposite of what people do on Halloween. LOL! And I am TOTALLY okay with that! I will be the only one awake at 6 am on November 1, ha ha ha!

  5. Christina Bryant says:

    I came across your blog through a pin on pinterest and found your article about mold. I had a friend go through a similar scenario in her classroom and it took hospitilzation to get the school district to do something about the mold. She had all of the symptons your kids had, the breaking point was when she couldn’t walk and had to be rushed to the hospital. Thank you for sharing

  6. I’ve been struggling with this as well. My boys are 5 and 2 years old. We first took our oldest trick or treating at 3 years old. He didn’t know what candy was so he came home, laid his bag down, and went off to play. The candy disappeared. :) At 5, he’s now had exposure to candy from neighborhood kids and family members, and of course, he loves it.

    This year, I purchased natural candy from the Natural Candy Store, online. I told him he could choose 5 things from his bag, then he would trade the rest to me in exchange for the better quality candy. We let him have 1 piece per day, after breakfast. He learned a good lesson Halloween night, after eating the 5 items from his trick or treating. About an hour after eating it, he told me that his tummy hurt, and next year he was only going to eat 1 thing after trick or treating. He loves the natural candy.

    He doesn’t have any major health or other issues, so I’m ok with him having the quality candy in moderation. I absolutely cannot stand all the conventional stuff though, and I feel so guilty handing out to other kids.

    The last several years I’ve been handing out stickers, bouncy balls, Halloween pencils, mini play dough, Halloween stampers, etc. But I still feel like I have to give a candy with it. Next year I’ve decided the piece of candy I hand out with the other treats will be from the Natural Candy Store as well. They have a good price on a 2 pound bag of small Halloween chocolates (about 30-40 pieces per bag). I LOVE Oriental Trading for purchasing non-candy holiday treats for children.

    So for now, we will continue to celebrate Halloween with higher quality, real food candy.