Diabetes doesn’t mean kids have to skip Halloween

Carb counting and insulin pumps help diabetic kids sample Halloween’s sweet indulgences.

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins are suiting up for the yearly pilgrimage through neighborhoods shouting “Trick or Treat!” and begging for sweet treats that are synonymous with Halloween.

halloween_diabetes_storyBut a candy-centric holiday poses challenging questions for parents of children with diabetes. Can they have a mini candy bar? Is the orange and black gooey goodness of a cupcake off limits?

“They can enjoy Halloween and enjoy some of the sweets the holiday offers — within reason,” says Kenneth McCormick, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist and senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center. “We give parents and kids three options and let them decide how they want to handle Halloween and the sweets that come with it.”

Tip 1: Count Carbs

McCormick says by counting carbohydrates – which your body breaks down into glucose creating fluctuations in blood sugar – kids can enjoy some of the treats Halloween has to offer in moderation. In this option, the child keeps up with how many carbs they are eating and takes, for example, one unit of insulin for every 15 or 20 grams of carbohydrates.

“This is an easy option for kids on an insulin pump because they can just dial in an extra dose of insulin to compensate for what they are about to eat. But for kids that take shots, this could prove to be more difficult or inconvenient if they have to go to the school nurse for an extra dose,” he says.

Tip 2: Exchange candy

“Parents can trade the child a gift, money or low carb snack for their candy. Parents also can provide a substitute snack for their child if a Halloween party at school is an issue,” McCormick says. “We have been advising parents to do this for many, many years, and it is a solution that continues to work.”

Tip 3: Save for dessert

McCormick says kids can savor their Halloween treats without an extra shot or dose of insulin by having them for dessert after dinner. “By incorporating a sugary treat into meal time, when a child would normally get a dose of insulin, it eliminates the need for adding doses to their regimen.”

Parents and children should choose the option that helps diabetic kids enjoy Halloween candy and other holiday treats while sticking to their treatment, he says.