Halloween is undoubtedly a spooky time of year. Monsters and ghouls decorate driveways and yards, while cobwebs and cauldrons find homes on front porches. Parents of children with diabetes find Halloween scary for other reasons. It is, after all, a holiday dedicated to the collection and consumption of sweets, sugar, candy, and treats. Parents don’t want their children to feel left out of the festivities, but they have to put safety first.
With an estimated 208,000 American kids diagnosed with diabetes, navigating Halloween with diabetes can be a big issue in many communities.
Children with diabetes can enjoy Halloween. They can take part in school parties and carnivals, and even go out trick-or-treating on Halloween night. However, children with diabetes must be more cautious than children without diabetes when consuming sugar. Here are a few tips to help parents of diabetic children handle Halloween.
It’s important to plan ahead.
Know what you’re going to do before Halloween arrives, and set your child’s expectations as well. Consider bringing healthy food options to school parties. Plan on visiting just two, or three, streets when trick-or-treating, or set a cap on the amount of candy you will collect before heading home.
Also, let children know how much candy they will be able to keep and eat after Halloween is through, and how you will handle candy in general. Know that many parents are having the same kinds of conversations with their kids, even when diabetes isn’t a factor. Planning ahead helps you avoid making emotional decisions in the heat of the moment.
Communication is crucial.
Share your plan with your child — and involve your child in the planning. Agreeing ahead of time that extra candy goes into the freezer for later or is donated to a food pantry can make the idea of limiting candy more acceptable.
It’s a good idea to communicate to your child that he or should only eat candy when you’re present. This can help you regulate the amount of sweets your child eats, and respond appropriately with insulin.
Communication goes beyond your child. Make sure that teachers, day care workers, etc. know that your child has diabetes. Your friends and neighbors will support you and your child if they know how they can best do that — and many don’t know. This can be a great time to help share some knowledge about diabetes.
Don’t make candy the focal point.
There’s more to Halloween than just candy. Look for healthier alternatives to candy and sweets — check out our Pinterest board for some great ideas. Then emphasize the fun parts that don’t revolve around refined sugar.
Make a big deal about arts and crafts and decorating. Plan fun activities like games, pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, and going to a corn maze. Tell spooky ghost stories, watch scary movies, and sing spooky songs. Go all out for costumes, and focus on the traditions rather than the candy.
Of course, candy is still very much a part of Halloween, but sugar isn’t off the table for children with diabetes. You just have to monitor how much candy your child eats.
Moderation is important even for children and adults without diabetes. However, since refined sugars radically affect blood sugar levels, it’s even more important to limit the amount of candy children with diabetes eat. Have a set amount of candy your child can eat, maybe one or two pieces a day.
Factor candy into the diet.
It’s very important to read the nutritional facts on candy. You’d be surprised at just how much sugar even the smallest piece of candy contains. Being aware of the nutritional information can help prevent surprises.
Don’t have candy as a snack. It’s better to consume sugar with meals than just by itself. Your blood glucose levels are affected less when your body processes sugars with fats and proteins than sugar alone.
Getting rid of excess candy.
Limiting trick or treating and spending time at a party or community event can help limit the candy problem, but what if you end up with too much?
One way to help get rid of extra Halloween candy is to set up a bartering system. Have your child trade candy for items or activities. Maybe staying up an extra 30 minutes is 5 pieces of candy, and playing a board game is 10 pieces of candy.
Donating candy to a food pantry or sending it to the troops can be an exciting tradition. Why not start this year?