Halloween is a time for telling scary stories with the lights off, for braving haunted houses and coming up with the greatest costume concept ever created. But nothing says Halloween quite like trick-or-treating. Of course, when you’re vegan, the treat often ends up being the trick, what with the multitude of potentially suspect ingredients in most Halloween candies.[tweet this] So, what’s a vegan supposed to get their spook on? Let’s find out! 

This video post is for kids and adults, whether vegan, vegan-curious, or simply health-conscious. For many new and prospective vegans, the greatest challenge isn’t necessarily what to eat or not eat, but how to navigate social situations and traditions like holiday celebrations.

The good news is you don’t have to miss out on your favorite festivities, and may even find new ways to celebrate. While being vegan does bring another level of awareness and consideration to all aspects of your life, which isn’t a bad thing, it also opens up opportunities for creativity. So today I’m going to share with you some suggestions for making your trick-or-treating vegan-friendly.[tweet this] And in my next video, I’ll cover last-minute vegan costume ideas!

There are several layers to the trick-or-treat discussion and you can feel it out and decide what options and combination of the tips we’ll be discussing work best for you. If you’re a brand new vegan and really overwhelmed, you may just want to take the list of animal-product-free candies and rock out your Halloween routine old school. Or you may choose to delve deeper or even try creating new traditions.

In a moment we’ll talk about how to know what candy is vegan, but first let’s talk about the trick-or-treat action. If you want to go the traditional door-to-door route, what do you say or do when a bunch of non-vegan candy is shoveled into your or your child’s bag?

Well, there are many options, but I’ll throw out a few key moves I came up with. There’s the sack and sort, take and trade, the take and toss, the pass it on, the reverse treat, and the treat treat revolution. [I’m pretty proud of those names].

The Sack & Sort:

The “sack and sort” is perhaps the most basic. You take whatever candy you’re given and then sort out the vegan from non-vegan options when you get home. What you do with the non-vegan options is dealt with in the next few moves.

The Take & Trade:

The “take and trade” is for when you want to avoid GMOs, sugar, and generally unhealthy options that are still vegan by ingredients alone. If you’re a parent you can make this into a fun game of exchanges where kids get x amount of alternative treats for y amount of candy bars.   Alternatives can be sweet, juicy fruits, melt-in-your-mouth gooey dates, vegan baked goods, and more. [see below for more ideas]

The Take & Toss:

The “take and toss” is a way to take care of the non-vegan items, essentially by tossing them in the garbage. Now some people see this as a waste of food while others don’t consider candy as “food” that can be wasted.

The Pass In On:

If you’re of the former camp, you’ll like the “pass it on” option, where you pass on the non-vegan options to non-vegan friends, family, coworkers, or donate to shelters. Some people feel this is a way to reduce waste while others may feel it’s not ethical to pass on unhealthy and non-vegan items.

This is where the reverse-treat and the treat-treat revolution come into play.

The Reverse Treat:

The reverse treat is just what it sounds like: you bring vegan treats with you and instead of taking candy, you go door to door handing out delicious goodness. It will certainly surprise people and can be a great way of enjoying the fun of trick-or-treating in a whole new way. Of course, you want to be sure to keep enough of your vegan yummies at home to have your own celebration when you return.

The Treat Treat Revolution:

The final suggestion is the treat-treat revolution. Similar to the reverse treat, you pull on your costume and saddle up your treat sack full of vegan goodness, but instead of going door-to-door in your neighborhood, you go visit the needy in your area at local shelters and similar establishments. Of course, you’ll want to call ahead to make sure this is okay.

Another idea is spend the day volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary, where all the treats you’ll need will be some hay, carrots, and apples.

There are so many ways to celebrate Halloween outside of the now traditional candy-bound trick-or-treat, so feel free to improvise. But, as I said in the beginning, if you want to stick to the basics, go for it and use any of the options above that feels right.

Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s get down to the core candy concerns. [tweet this] The main elements that make candy non-vegan are dairy ingredients, gelatin, carmine,and confectioners glaze. (For a more extensive look into hidden food ingredients see this post). Dairy comes from cows, at great expense to their health and the lives of their babies; gelatin is derived from the bones, tendons, ligaments, hooves, and other reject parts of animals, carmine is coloring from the crushed bodies of pregnant beetles, and confectioners glaze or shellac comes beetle secretions.

Who knew that candy was really the scariest part of Halloween! Luckily, a lot of common candies don’t contain this little horror show, including Skittles, Sour Patches, Jolly Ranchers, JuJubes, Mike and Ikes, Nerds, Twizzlers, Sweet Tarts, Dum-Dums, Gobstoppers, Air Heads, Swedish Fish, and more. You can check out the list below or here for more options, but bear in mind that companies may change their ingredients at any times, so it’s always best to read the label first.

Now here’s where you can dig several layers deeper. Beyond the basic animal product ingredients exist several other elements to consider, namely sugar, cocoa, GMOs, and health. [**UPDATE** forgot to mention that Palm Oil is often an ingredient in mainstream candies to also consider, and it won't usually be written in a recognizable way.] I’ll cover them very briefly and supply additional resources if you want to pursue them further before making your decisions.

It’s safe to say that all mainstream candy, whether it contains animal products or not, does contain sugar, which, at least in the United States, is filtered through the charred bones of animals to remove its natural coloring. I have a whole video that goes into greater depth about sugar, which you can watch here.

Another major factor to consider when it comes to the chocolaty-goodness side of this holiday is cocoa. Chocolate, in and of itself is vegan, however, 70% of the world’s cocoa is sourced from Western Africa countries where child slave labor is a major issue.

And finally, most, if not all mainstream candy contains genetically modified organisms, commonly known as GMOs, and most definitely all of them [meaning the candies] aren’t the most ideal choices for your health.

*As an update, I forgot to mention in the video but wanted to add to the post that palm oil is also an ingredient to consider.  Like sugar and chocolate, palm oil is “essentially” vegan, but the methods by which it is procured are troubling on several fronts.  Please see this post for more information.*

These are all elements you can take into consideration when making your candy selection and I’ve included links to lists of GMO-free candies, fair-trade chocolate approved by the Food Empowerment Project below.

Of course when it comes to handing out candy in your own home, you have complete control over what you pass on to others. You can stock up on vegan chocolates or even go healthy with things like dried fruits, pretzels, nuts, veggie chips, organic lollipops, Justin’s almond butter pouches, mandarin oranges or even hand out non-food items.

There are a million and one ways to have a vegan Halloween, and regardless of which you choose, I hope you have a good one.

I do hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. If you’re vegan, what do you do for Halloween? If you’re not vegan, does the worry of how to handle such holidays stop you from making the switch? What fun ideas do you have for the holiday? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post give the video a big thumbs up and share it around to help other vegan trick-or-treaters! Now go live vegan, have a Happy Halloween, and I’ll see you soon.

See ya next nugget!

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Featured Videos/Further Resources:
10 Last Minute DIY Vegan Halloween Costume Ideas: Coming 10/28/15
More About Sugar
What’s Wrong With Dairy?
Navigating Social Situations As A Vegan
Vegan Food for the Homeless
What’s REALLY In Your Food
Is Palm Oil Vegan?

Ideas for Other holidays:
Epically Ethical Thanksgiving Dinner
Cruelty-Free Christmas Collab

CANDY & TREAT GUIDES & SUGGESTIONS [also see in-post ideas & links]
Approved Chocolate List from The Food Empowerment Project
The Green Halloween Guide to a Non-GMO Halloween
VegNews Extensive List of Candies [does include GMO & potentially non-fair trade options] 5 Spooky and Healthy Vegan Halloween Treats
15 Sweet Recipes That Will Blow Halloween Candy Out of the Trick or Treat Bag!

9 thoughts on “Vegan Guide to Trick-Or-Treating & Halloween Candy

    Cortnie says:

    Emily,
    Wanted to share another fun tip. Before my daughters and I went vegan a year and a half ago all holidays were terrifying to begin with. My youngest daughter has Celiac Disease and can not consume any gluten or use any products on her skin containing gluten or have any gluten in our daily cleaning products. During our journey to keep her safe we learned of the Teal Pumpkin Project. It’s for people with food allergies. When you go Trick or Treating you look for Teal Pumpkins and that means they have non food items to hand out as treats so children and their parents don’t have to worry. This is great for Vegans too because who wants all that sugar laden garbage in their house anyhow. Just thought I would share this awesome way to navigate Halloween that is not commonly thought about unless you or your children have allergies. Keep up the good work. Love your videos.
    ~Cortnie

    Thank you so much for sharing Cortnie! Wish I’d known about this to put in the video. I so appreciate the additional information! Maybe next year I can do an addendum :) Many thanks!

    louise says:

    The human torture that is food production broken bodies,minds souls,higher injuries than coal mining,,want food grow lettuce n be happy lol

    louise says:

    Chocolate fields used to grow protein nuts n leaves all cash crops esp costly addictive foods like cocoa n cane,maple,rice,aguave etc,all. These Rob mothers n babies of land,n therefore forces human slavery on boats off USA n Canada,see Brooks ALberta packers strike African slave traffickin

    sally anne hubbard says:

    We must become label readers. I have a list of vegan candy. I find it difficult to explain to non vegans the reason I don’t eat marshmallows. So many people do not know where gelatin comes from.

    Mars, the company who makes Skittles tests on animals.

    Yes they do. Thank you for the addition. That is certainly another factor to consider.

    Anyone else sometimes leave note on door for when I am or may be away, with message and taped copy of package?

    While looking for Halloween theme phrasing notice I accidentally found a sneaky way to use reverse psychology, maybe some of them will look up what gelatin is made from, when they get home, also about GMOs ;-) See below from large font Open Office (“Word”) file:

    HeALthIeR CaNdy!?!?

    Organic (no pesticide “tricks”)

    No Frankenstein-Foods(No GMO, genetically ‘modified’ foods)

    Vegan (no animal products like ‘gelatin’ – what it’s made from is too sCaRy for even Halloween!)

    Fewer common allergens—Ingredients on package @door for YumEartH Organic pops..(for Justin’s packs – no peanuts, but has Almond and/or Hazelnut butter– see back of packs for ingredients)

    thanks for the ideas Harel! :)

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