Type 1 Diabetes and Halloween: Educating the Children

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • Halloween. The time of ghosts, goblins, pirates, and nightmarish amounts of candy and other carbohydrate-laden treats, particularly if you have diabetes are a parent of a child with diabetes.

    So what are you supposed to do? Sideline your child and have him watch It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! a few dozen times on Halloween Night? Watching Linus, Sally and Snoopy is great once, but after that your child should enjoy Halloween as much as other kids (at least almost). I've been gathering a few strategies along the way for we parents of Type 1 kids of how to survive this holiday rigged with more traps than a fun house:

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    Before you go out:

    • Consider offering non-food items: Instead of standing for hours in Target debating which kind of candy to distribute on Halloween night (I've been there, and have nearly had WWIII breakout between my three sons over this one decision), consider giving away small items that are not edible. Oriental Trading is the bomb when it comes to getting kitschy little giveaways. They have it all: glow-in-the-dark snakes, oozing eyeballs, fashionable spider rings in a multitude of colors, Halloween pencils - the list is endless. The stuff is very affordable and probably a better deal than handing out Hershey's Bars. Too, these giveaways are great for kids with other food issues and allergies.
    • Start a neighborhood consortium: This idea dovetails on offering small toys/giveaways instead of candy. Type 1s are not the only ones who struggle with Halloween, those with food allergies that can be potentially life threatening, like peanuts, eggs, and milk, have a hard time on Halloween. I heard of one ingenious mother who put together a consortium of parents who agreed to hand out items that would be suitable for kids with allergies or diabetes. The list was made up of the addresses of those folks who were participating in the consortium and sent out. Participants then know what houses to go to in order to receive suitable giveaways for their children.
    • Fun Size Me: A fun size (or small size) candy bar suits trick-or-treaters just fine ... even if it means refraining from buying the larger sized bars when they are on sale.
    • Shift focus: Going trick-or-treating is not the only way of celebrating Halloween, rather it is simply a part of it. Consider creating a haunted house or haunted walkway leading up to your home. Or hold a Halloween party at your home where you can monitor what is being offered. Kids, both little and big, will have a ton of fun being involved in the planning, creating and hosting of a haunted house or party - so much so that they might even forget about the candy (at least for a little while).
    • Finally ... Fill up: This is not rocket science, but it's not overly obvious either. The less hungry a kid is before he sets out to trick or treat, the less likely he is to want to eat a lot of goodies. So before heading out the door for the festivities, bulk up on filling foods (ideally low carb): like a peanut butter sandwich, a portion of nuts, or a few pieces of cheese.

    While you're out:

    • Take your glucometer and insulin while trick or treating. Sometimes it's really tough to wait until you get home to break into the booty. Too, kids tend to run like mad during the house-to-house candy dash, and burn off a lot of energy, which is always a plus for blood glucose levels, but also can cause a low.
    • Running house-to-house counts as exercise! Walking and running does constitute exercise and thus lowers blood glucose levels, so enjoy.

    After trick-or-treating:

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    • Guides to carb counts: Here are some guides for candy and the carbohydrate counts - remembering that a part of the battle is portion control, as it should be with anyone. The major difference is that Type 1 kids can't gorge on their booty without the threat of DKA and a stay in the hospital. A few pieces a day is a good way to let a child prolong the enjoyment of Halloween. Take a look at the guide from Children With Diabetes and also the guide from the Joslin Diabetes Center: 15 gram carb treats.
    • Hide the evidence: After Halloween night, don't leave candy bags out, rather have everyone (meaning all siblings), turn over their candy bags. Then put the bags in a high cabinet (preferably where your kids don't know where to find them) for safekeeping. I honestly can say that the toughest time my son had controlling his urge for snitching sweets was when I had left out his brothers' Easter baskets last¬†
    • The Candy Witch. This solution was passed on to me by a work friend of mine several years ago, before we had Diabetes to contend with. The premise is simple: Children trick or treat as they normally do. When they return home, they pick out three of their favorite pieces of candy from their loot and eat them or save them for later. Before they head to bed, children then set their candy out in a special place (like the kitchen table or the front porch) for the Candy Witch. While they are sleeping, the Candy Witch takes their candy in exchange for a special toy or game. You can then donate the candy to a shelter.

    When the morning of November 1 arrives, you can kick back and relax a little, but just a little - the next carb-fest is on the horizon: The Holidays.

    Happy Haunting!


Published On: October 15, 2009