Once October hits, the hunt begins for that perfect Halloween costume and the biggest pumpkin ever. Trick-or-treaters spill into neighborhoods in search of as many treats as possible and kids will reliably overindulge in candy. In fact, around 4 percent of all candy consumed in the U.S. is eaten on that single day, according to The NPD group, which does market research on eating trends.
Understandably, Halloween can be a particular challenge for kids with type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes has increased among U.S. children and adolescents in the last two decades.
Kids with diabetes must maintain a healthy diet, stay physically active, and monitor their blood glucose levels consistently. That doesn’t mean they can’t have fun on Halloween. It just means a little extra planning is necessary. Here’s how you can help.
Most children with diabetes can have candy. They just need to be cognizant of carbohydrate counts. Carbohydrates can spike sugar levels.
Read labels, check the numbers and make trade-offs. For example, a snack-size Kit Kat bar has 70 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbs, whereas a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup has 105 calories, 6.5 grams of fat and 12 grams of carbs. Picking the Kit Kat will save 3 grams of carbs and sugar, and 35 calories. Long-lasting hard candies won’t do as much harm to blood sugar levels as some other candies. Three Jolly Ranchers have 7 grams of sugar, for example, while one fun-size bag of Skittles can contain more than double that amount.
Fill ‘em up
Health care providers recommend that you send your kids out trick-or-treating with a full stomach. Give them a healthy dinner beforehand, which will help reduce their temptation to fill up on candy.
Focus on friends
Halloween doesn’t have to be all about trick-or treating. Invite your children’s friends over for a party and a costume contest. Some healthy treats that everyone can enjoy include banana ghost pops, sugar-free chocolate, raisins, strawberries, roasted pumpkin seeds, and more. Get creative. If you’re looking for ideas, check out this video from the American Diabetes Association. (I always look forward to serving my kids a glass of water with eerie eyeball ice cubes inside!)
Give it back
Much of the fun of Halloween for kids is seeing how much candy they can actually get. Have your child choose a few of his favorites, then check out the Halloween Candy Buyback Program. These programs are usually sponsored by dental offices, who often partner with local businesses.
Participants buy back kids’ Halloween candy at a scheduled event with cash, xylitol products, coupons, toothbrushes, and more.
This helps children learn about service, keeps candy out of the house, and can reduce the amount of calories and carbs kids with diabetes consume—and possibly minimize the likelihood of cavities as well!
Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning health writer living in Palm Springs. She has worked at newspapers in California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and at USA Today. Cindy received a 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, chosen as one of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, inducted into the Yankton (S.D.) High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work on Montana’s suicide rate, and named one of Gannett’s Top Ten Supervisors of the Year. Follow Cindy on Twitter @CindyUken, on Facebook and at CindyUken.com.