Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our Favorite Alternatives to Traditional Halloween Candy

Halloween is a bit of a nightmare when you and your family follow a pretty restrictive diet like being vegan and gluten-free... add in there avoiding GMOs, food colorings/dyes, and high sugar foods and you're left with not so much to eat. Usually this is no problem for me because I'm not a huge candy eater, and for the past few Hallowens Avery hasn't noticed too much that she doesn't eat traditional candy.

But this year is different, she's 3 1/2 and she totally gets the whole idea of Halloween, trick-or-treating, and how there is a lot of candy involved. This leaves me kind of stuck...I don't want to isolate her and tell her "no" that she can't participate in traditional Halloween activities, but at the same time I also don't want her eating traditional candy that contains ingredients I would never even allow into my house. What's a green mama to do?!

Traditional candy, no thanks.
Just like any other green/healthy swap I've done in the past, I knew it would be all about finding a comparable replacement. Follow along as I share what healthier alternatives I've found and how I will be using them this year.

As you can imagine, in our home there's not a lot of candy. Occasionally she gets it for dessert, and it's because that's how I potty trained her a year and a half ago, but even then it's only 2-3 pieces (small gummies/jelly beans). But over time we have found some cool favorites that we keep stocked up on. Most of these are organic, contain no-GMOs, and no artificial food colorings. They are not perfect though. Some still contain sugar, such as in the form of evaporated cane juice, but that's a given if you're calling it candy, right. To me it's all about keeping the portion small, and then I don't worry so much about it.

My little Halloween helper.
When it came time for Halloween, I knew I would have to step up my candy game to keep things intersting for her, so we went out and found a few other "new" candy alternative treats which I will share with you below. So let me breakdown my Halloween "Green Game Plan."

When she goes to trick-or-treat, she will do so as usual. She'll collect the candy that's being handed out and then bring it all home. From there I will take her bag (kindly-lol), and give her a special trick-or-treat bag I've prepared for her that contains our alternative candy/toy items.

The alternative trick-or-treat bag I will give to Avery when she gets
home from trick-or-treating.
What will we do with that traditioanl candy that was collected? A majority will probably go to my husband. He's vegetarian, and does not follow a gluten-free diet, plus he's got a major sweet tooth. So anything I've shared with you about GMOs and artifical food colorings, he kind of turns a blind eye to when it comes to candy. But that's why this blog isn't called "Brandon's Green Life". ( :

Another option I will be checking out this year is to donate our extra candy to something called, "Operation Gratitude" where you can ship out or drop off your extra candy to dentist offices and they will donate it to troops overseas. A pretty worth cause and a great way to get rid of that extra candy. Read more about it here.

Alright so now that we've shared what we're doing with that leftover traditional candy, let me share about what will be in Avery's Alternative Treat Bag...

Mom-approved trick-or-treat bag.

As you can see there's a few candy items in there, little boxes that I wil share more about below, but you can also see some non-candy items in there like glow sticks, notepads, and stampers, just to name a few.

To go along with these non-food items, we will be participating in something called the "Teal Pumpkin Project" which is affiliated with FARE (the Food Allergy Research & Education organization). The basic idea is that homes can participate by painting a pumpkin teal (the color of food allergy awareness) and offering non-food items for kids that have food allergies. This allows kids with food allergies the opportunity to particpate in trick-or-treating with their friends and family without having to worry about eating or coming in contact with a food that could potentially make them sick.

Our teal pumpkin.

The Teal Pumpkin Project's website describes how you can still offer candy to other trick-or-treaters, but to have available one tray/bowl of non-food items for those with food allergies. Seeing as to all the ingredients I avoid, and Avery avoids as well, I jumped at the chance to participate. So we painted our pumpkin teal, and printed a sign you can find on their website to further bring attention to the fact that non-food treats are available (and explain why we have a teal pumpkin), and last we gathered our non-food items to pass out.

Look's like Mila might be a helper when it comes
to passing out the non-food treats!
So on Halloween night I will have two trays: one with non-food items for kids with food allergies, or for anyone who just wants the non-food items, and a bowl of food items like candy and fruit. 

Non-Food Items for kiddos with food allergies, contains: notepads, Halloween
stickers, glow bracelets, and stampers.

Food items: gummy snacks, lolli pops, and clementines (doesn't hurt to try

So to go into a little more detail about what will be in Avery's bag the "candy portion" will contain something I came up with called, "Treat Bags" and "Treat Boxes".  My idea behind this is that I wanted something to give Avery that was a small portion of candy, but just as fun to receive (as other kids enjoy a small bag or serving size of candy.)  This led me on a quest to try out some different container ideas and here's what I found...

Alternative "Treat Bags" and "Treat Boxes"

Here's the back and open view of the bag and box.

What I used to make these was a box of "favor tins" which we picked up from Michael's Craft Store for $20. We found them in the wedding supply aisle. As you can see there are 30 in the package, which is more than enough for us for Halloween. I love these containers because they are sturdy, allow me to package up Avery's Halloween goodies, and I can reuse them year after year.

Yes, they are a little bigger and heavier than traditional candy, but I'll trade green-ness for that any day.

The other packaging opition I found were these tiny plastic bags. Not the greenest source I know, but they are 1.75" x 1.75" so they will provide me a packaging option that results in a smaller candy portion (aka less sugar)! This little bag cost me about $2-3. And since they look a little ghetto just as a plain plastic baggie, we jazzed them up with some Halloween stickers.

Now that we've got the packaging down, let's move onto how we made the boxes and bags. Let me start by sharing our favorite alternative candy/food items:
Sorry the candy in the middle is down, didn't realize that when I was
taking the photo for some reason. Check out the video for a better
visual of the Surf Sweets candy.

So that's my "candy" and here's some of the food items that I will be including as additional Halloween treats:

Why include these extra snack items? To balance out the sugar load! Like I said before, Avery doesn't eat much candy and so Halloween is no excuse to just go CRAZY with the sugar. I still want her to be able to enjoy her candy but I also wanted to balance it out with some other food items. These foods will help "fill" the treat boxes so they are entirely full of just candy.

So to get started with the boxes, we put the candy in little bowls/jars and started filling the treat boxes...

So to get started, I fill my boxes up with food items like pretzels, rasins, dried blueberries, and a few mini chocolate chips. I'd say I did about half with these food items and the other half with candy.

Then I followed it up with one of each of the "candies" I listed above...

Last comes the lid, and a little Halloween sticker to make it a little more fun and festive!

So that's our Treat Boxes. Next up are the Treat Bags. Same idea, smaller size.  Not much fits inside of these bags, but 3-4 small pieces of candy seem to work just fine.

There you have it, your own "Halloween Treat Bags & Boxes"!  Now this is by no means a guideline that you HAVE to fill them just as we did. You could fill them however you want based on your own dietary needs/restrictions and by your child's preferences. This just happens to be what Avery likes...this year.  ( :

As you saw above, these Treat Boxes and Bags will now go in her "Alternative Treat Bag" and when she comes home from trick-or-treating I will hand her that bag and let her have a few treats to eat/toys to play with. Then I will save it, and spread out how much she has each day so as not to load her up too much on sugar on any given day or time. (Can you tell I'm enjoying the control I have over this still since she's only 3?! I have no idea what I will do when she's 8 or 10 or 15...agh!).

So there you have it, our alternative plan for Halloween. Do you have a favorite alternative candy brand that you like? Do you hand out any non-food items? Or do you hand out fruit or snacks instead of candy? Share below and we can all go a little greener and healthier this Halloween!

I'll be sure to post back after Halloween to let you know how it all worked out, and if you try it to be sure to let me know how it goes.

Happy trick-or-treating greenies!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mila's First Birthday...a Halloween Party!

Well the time has come for Mila to turn one! I can't believe it. This year really flew by and with Halloween approaching I knew it would be the perfect theme for Mila's First Birthday.  Follow along as I share some of the details of her party.

Knowing that I was going for a Halloween-style party I decided incorporate the colors: black, orange, and white. Along with some fun patterns like chevron and polka dots.

Here's how the invite turned out..

Onto the decorations...this included pom poms of course (my favorite party decorating prop) and a some other decorative shapes, like stars (from the Halloween party decor at Target) and the larger circles (I found at Party City). 

I had to keep up my "First Birthday Tradition" of making a photo banner with all of her monthly pictures from month #1 to month #11. Read more about how I made it here.

Mila's Monthly Photo Banner
Next up was a birthday banner I got off of Etsy. It was a digital document that I printed, cut out and assembled. You can order the banner triangles in any color/style and the same goes for the letters that you purchase separate. The whole thing cost me $4.  ( :

Then I found these paper mache letters at Hobby Lobby and my mom helped me paint them to match the party colors.

Next up was the food, which was pretty simple. Some veggies and homemade hummus, gluten-free pretzels...

...as well as gluten-free, vegan cupcakes (find the recipe here), fruit salad, chips and salsa. It's funny because looking at the table now, it looks a little bare...but when I was getting it all ready I felt like I had so much food to prepare! LOL.

Another shot of the pom pom decor...

Best part of the whole party-prep this time around was that Mila was on what we call a "sleep strike" where she refused to take her morning nap. What did she want to do instead? Cuddle on Nana (my mom and party planning partner in crime!).

She wouldn't even go to me, she just kept saying,
"Nana, Nana."
I wasn't sure she was going to make it until party time without drifting off, but once people started showing up she was awake and ready to see what was going on!
Very interested in her almost 2 week old baby cousin.

Not in the mood for a photo with mom...just ready for some presents!
Then it was time to open up some presents (or for Avery to open up some presents I should say!).

First up, a pretend "smart phone" this was right up her alley as she searches
out every gadget, remote, and phone she can find.

Official Present Unwrapper: Avery. She really did a good job at the party,
I wondered how she would handle a whole party all for her sister, but she
did great (I mean, there were a few meltdowns, but other than that, she
handled it pretty well.) (  :

Playing with her new Frozen Anna doll.

Maybe a shot of us three girls together? Yeah that's not going to happen!
At least I was ready.

Avery trying on the pretend crown for Mila.

After opening presents, Mila snuck away to
rest/text. I told you that girl needed a nap!
Then it was time for her cupcake! Read more here about how and why I chose this cupcake/frosting recipe that's free of refined sugars (sweetened with agave), free of food colorings, gluten-free (uses garbanzo bean flour) and vegan.

Singing "Happy Birthday"

Trying the frosting...

Getting a little messy.

Now she's "all done"! Note the cupcake flying
off the tray.

Then she was off to go outside with her Nana Karen and play
their favorite peek-a-boo game in our play house.

Meanwhile Avery snacked away on some more
fruit back inside.
Then Mila joined her with one of her birthday presents: her very own princess dress! Thanks Aunt Carol for the Rapunzel dress, finally one that is just her size (since she usually tries to put on Avery's).
"Okay Big Sis, tell me what I gotta do with this
dress thing..."
Before the party was over, we watched a video recapping some of our favorite moments from the past year: "Mila's First Year". 

Happy Birthday to you Mila! We sure love you and all the joy, smiles, and fun you bring to our little family.

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