Q: What do you do about Halloween? So many candies have milk or gelatin in them.
A: Lots of vegan bloggers have covered the issue of vegan Halloween candy. There are plenty of choices available to hand out for Halloween. For example, vegan chocolates and candy bars include Sjaaks, Go Max Go candy bars, Rescue Chocolate, Crispy Cat bars, Lulu’s and more. Vegan candies include Yummy Earth lolipops and other treats, Mike and Ikes, Now and Laters, Dum-Dums, Dots, Twizzlers, Jolly Ranchers and more. Then of course, you can also choose to hand out other kinds of treats like stickers, coloring books, pretzels, raisins, markers, toys, or whistles. There are lots of options for vegans who want to hand out goodies to Trick-or-Treaters.
Here’s the more tricky issue: How about when you’re a vegan parent… how do you deal with all the nonvegan candies your child comes home with?
Of course, you could always just ignore the issue and focus on the times when vegan choices matter most: everyday meals. After all, some vegans have decided that “all birthday cake is vegan” so according to that rationale Halloween candy is probably vegan too. The idea is that minor nonvegan ingredients don’t much matter at celebratory situations. Preventing nonvegan candy from entering your child’s mouth probably won’t actually save any animals or prevent environmental destruction. If this practical solution works for you and your family, then go for it.
But if you choose to limit your child’s nonvegan candy consumption for health reasons or simply as a teachable moment, the first thing to remember is that lots of parents have this issue not just vegans.
Parents of children with allergies to nuts have to sort through the candy and remove all the nutty stuff. Parents of diabetic children have to limit their child’s consumption of candy very carefully. Religious parents will restrict some types of candies depending on their religion. Parents who boycott chocolate that is not fair trade also deal with this issue. And most parents who value health will do something to limit their child’s Halloween candy consumption to avoid tummy aches, rotten teeth, and sugar addictions.
So vegan parents are not alone. Lots of parents sort through their kids’ candy in one way or another. That’s helpful to remember because those parents have come up with good solutions already. Vegan parents don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we can use the same strategies that other parents use. Here are some options:
1. For young children, it’s easy to just remove all the offensive candy when they’re not looking. You can replace it with other candy (or toys) if you want but you often won’t need to. Just dole the candy out as you see fit, perhaps one piece per day until it is gone.
2. For older children you will have to negotiate a bit. One option is to sit down with the kid and sort it out together so they learn what is vegan and what is not. Then let the child decide if they want to eat the nonvegan stuff or if they’d rather trade it for vegan candy. You can do the trade piece by piece or by weight, it’s up to you. If they choose to eat the nonvegan stuff, just take it as a sign that you may need to spend a bit more time later teaching them why vegan.
3. However you sort out the nonvegan candy – either with your child or without – you may not want to just dump the candy in the trash. There are other options that can help encourage your child to be a compassionate charitable person. For example, you can donate the nonvegan candy for care packages to troops or for children in the hospital. There are many ways to donate candy.
4. Another option to trading the nonvegan candy for vegan candy is to trade it for toys or money. This is a good option for older children who will likely value toys and money more than candy.
5. If you’d like to add a game to the candy trade then you can play the Halloween Witch game. The Halloween Witch is a magical woman much like the Tooth Fairy who comes at night. She takes the Halloween candy away and replaces it with better candy, toys, or money while the child sleeps.
6. For the activist child, you can help them package up the nonvegan candies and ship them back to their manufacturers with a note that expresses a desire for them to make vegan candy. Involving your child in this activity could be very empowering for them. And a hand-written note from a child asking for more vegan candy… well, that’s pretty irresitable, isn’t it?
Remember, these strategies aren’t just about what goes into your child’s body. These are about developing your child. Some of these strategies encourage your child to learn to delay gratification, which has tremendous long-term benefits. These techniques teach your child about label-reading and finding nonvegan ingredients, giving them the tools they’ll need to succeed as healthy vegans after they leave your home. And most importantly, some of these options above provide the opportunity for your child to develop their moral agency and learn to act responsibly in the world.
I’ve provided a few options for dealing with nonvegan candy. But I’m sure you have more ideas. Vegan parents and future vegan parents: What are your plans for keeping nonvegan candy out of your child’s mouth?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October of 2011. It has been republished to reach a new audience.