Diabetes doesn’t mean kids have to skip Halloween

Counting carbs, exchanging candy for other treats and saving it for dessert are all alternatives for parents to consider.
halloween diabetesWhile ghosts, ghouls and goblins are suiting up for the yearly pilgrimage through neighborhoods in search of sweet treats synonymous with Halloween, candy-centric holidays pose challenging questions for parents of children with diabetes.

The good news, according an expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is that children with diabetes can enjoy Halloween sweets — within reason. Parents and kids have three options for handling Halloween, says Fernando Ovalle, M.D., professor of medicine in the UAB School of Medicine and senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

Count carbs. 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. With this option, the child keeps up with how many carbs he or she is eating and takes, for example, one unit of insulin for every 15-20 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,” Ovalle said. “But for kids who take shots, this could prove to be more difficult or inconvenient if they have to go to the school nurse for an extra dose.”

Exchange candy. Parents can trade the child a gift, money or low-carb snack for candy.

“Parents also can provide a substitute snack for their child if a Halloween party at school is an issue,” Ovalle said.

Save for dessert. Kids can savor their Halloween treats without an extra shot or dose of insulin by saving them for dessert after dinner. Incorporating a sugary treat into mealtime, when a child would normally get a dose of insulin, eliminates the need for adding doses to their regimen.

“The most important thing to remember is that parents and children should choose the option that helps diabetic kids enjoy Halloween candy and other holiday treats while sticking to their treatment,” Ovalle said.

Read Ovalle’s Everyday Health column for an expert’s take on the U.S. diabetes epidemic.