Halloween is a fun time for the kids as they go house to house, trick-or-treating for delicious goodies. For any child with a working pancreas, Halloween is a time to “pig-out” on all the sweet candies and snacks but for a child with diabetes, it can be a dangerous “trick” that can have dire consequences. Each sweet morsel is packed full of calories but more specifically, the dreaded “carbohydrate”! The danger is that the number of carbs varies from treat to treat and as a concerned parent of a child with diabetes, Halloween becomes a large concern.
Diabetes Type 1 (DT1) is found in adolescents as their pancreas no longer produces insulin; Diabetes Type 2 (DT2) occurs as a result of the body becoming resistant to the insulin produced or the pancreas simply does not produce enough insulin. DT2 is the predominant form of diabetes in America and it has been reported with increasing frequency among adolescents.
In regards to Halloween festivities, it’s still okay to eat sugary sweets but it must be considered into the meal plan as each piece of candy can cause a spike in blood glucose levels. Varying carbohydrate amounts in candy need to be considered; for instance a snack size Hershey bar has 8 grams of carbohydrates while a snack size Reese’s Peanut Butter cup has 12 grams of carbohydrates. Choosing the snack with fewer carbohydrates is usually a better choice in meal planning.
Candy choices can also be made in regards to how fast sugar is released into the blood stream. Protein helps to slowly release sugar into the blood stream which will reduce spikes in blood glucose levels. Candy with protein often includes chocolates with nuts like an Almond Hershey’s, Peanut M&M’s or a Snickers bar.
Another danger besides eating Halloween candy is the actual process of trick-or-treating as it involves prolonged periods of walking which can lower blood glucose levels so it’s smart to pack a healthy snack to help with the lows in blood glucose, rather than eating sugary snacks which will cause a spike in blood glucose.
As I child, I remember that Halloween and trick-or-treating were one of my most favorite events as a child. Even if a child has diabetes, a parent shouldn’t deprive their child of the experience and joy of trick-or-treat candy. Rather let the child enjoy the fruits of their labor and be a responsible parent by incorporating that treat into their meal plan. Candy can also be used to help battle blood glucose lows. Hard sugar candies tend to be a better choice in battling lows compared to candies with higher fat contents such as chocolate.
After trick-or-treating, there is always more than enough candy. To help a child part away with their hard earned spoils of the evening, offer to exchange their candy for a toy, extra allowance or a fun event like fishing. Candy can also be donated to hospitals or senior centers and this helps to teach a child the joy of sharing/giving.
Just because Halloween for children involves trick-or-treating and the reward of sugary goodness, it doesn’t mean that they still can’t enjoy the sweet rewards and the whole experience. As a responsible parent, it’s important to properly educate a diabetic child about the choices they make while still allowing them to enjoy this festive holiday!