Most kids love Halloween. Can you blame them? It’s a holiday loaded with creepy crawly things, costumes, parties, and of course, candy. I recall the trick-or-treating loot my brother and I brought home in our childhood. We always had enough candy to last for months. We didn’t usually keep all of the candy, but one year my brother outsmarted everyone and hid some in his desk drawer. At the time, I was impressed with his ingenuity. Now, as a person with type 1 diabetes and a mother of three young boys, I need that ingenuity for the opposite reason. I want to keep the candy away. For me, the spookiness of Halloween isn’t the witches and the goblins, it’s the sugar.
I began to wonder if others feel the same way I do, so I decided to ask the world experts in sugar, the parents of children with diabetes, how they handle Halloween. I’m happy to be able to share with you some different points of view on how they deal with Halloween candy, and some creative ways to get rid of it, if that’s what you plan to do.
Here are a few halloween tips from parents of children with diabetes:
When our daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of two, we were living in a very small neighborhood (20 or so homes) so we gave out peanut butter crackers and such. After we moved to a much larger neighborhood, we chose not to give out candy, knowing most people would be giving it out and we were not sure how we were going to deal with the treats our daughter was bringing home (things being different on a regimen of R and NPH). Instead, we purchased small inexpensive Halloween related items (pencils, erasers, bouncy balls, etc.) and gave them out. Over time, and another move, we saw that others also started giving out non-candy items, which we encouraged. In fact, I would often tell parents who were accompanying their children trick-or-treating that we were not giving out candy because we knew there was so much out there that already, hinting that they should consider non-candy “treats.” Many years, some of the kids were quite happy to receive our “squishy eyeballs” and such.
That said, trick or treating itself can be a challenge because the walking can cause a low and the need to dip into that bag to find Skittles or Smarties. And, when parents are sifting through the goodies at the end of the night, they might actually find enough such items to put aside for low treatments, reserving the higher fat chocolates for special occasions. If possible, parents should consider donating much of the candy to a local hospital where there are children who could not go out to trick-or-treat, or a local senior center.
Brenda Hitchcock is the mother of Marissa, now grown, who inspired the creation of Children With Diabetes.
On Halloween we have the added ‘trick’ of October 31st also being our daughter Charlotte’s birthday. The first post-diagnosis Halloween/birthday came just three weeks after her diagnosis. She turned two that year, and we were still in a blur, trying to figure out the new world we found ourselves living in, so we skipped the celebrations completely. Charlotte opened presents, but that was it.
For her third and fourth Halloween/birthdays, Charlotte has gone trick-or-treating, just like everyone else. We plan to go again this year, as well. She has had her costume for a month already! She knows not to eat anything until we get back home and check every piece. We tell Charlotte to choose a few pieces for herself (for treats and to treat lows) and we put the rest in a big bowl that we leave on the kitchen counter for the “Birthday Fairy.” (I have heard that other type 1 parents do the same thing, but call her the “Halloween Fairy.”) Then, the next morning, in place of the big bowl of candy there will be a special toy that she has really wanted.
This works for us. Charlotte is able to participate in Halloween fun, she gets to eat some of her candy, but the majority of the candy is eliminated right away, so it will not linger around until Christmas.
Tonya is the mother of Charlotte, almost 5, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 23 months. Tonya’s type 1 Nail Polish Fundraising site is www.Tips4Type1.com. She can be found on twitter@T1Mommy and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Tips4Type1.
Halloween, Just Another Happy Day in Moderateville
We’re conscientious eaters, spoiled mostly on a low-GMO, stone age diet, and so in our house we treat Halloween much like we treat any other day, with a reasonable amount of healthy moderation. It may sound boring–okay, it definitely sounds boring and borderline un-American (at least we do dress up)–but we try to live our lives to the order of how you do anything is how you do everything. Other than the costume and door-to-door exhortations for treats, this holiday is no exception. With diabetes, the trick (as it were) for the parent is to account correctly for the sugar.
To be sure, no one here goes to bed suffering from treat-envy. When holding yourself to a fair, small amount of reward you don’t waste your time gnawing on handfuls of candy corn or heaven forbid, a pair of disgusting wax lips. Not on the oft-chance there’s something more savory to be had. This year we’re hoping for chocolate-covered bacon.
Steve Gilbert is a writer, husband and father of three children, the youngest of which was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2009 at the age of eight. He shares their diabetes journey on his blog, Without Envy. Steve is fulfilling a childhood dream of writing fiction from his home in North Carolina. You can read all about that endeavor on his website,stevenleegilbert.com.
The Houston Family loves Halloween!
Nate was diagnosed just weeks before Halloween in 2009 so this will be our third Halloween living with diabetes. The first year Halloween was a non-issue due to Nate’s age but with two big sisters, it didn’t take long for Nate to figure out what Halloween is all about. CANDY! This year, the costumes have been purchased, and all three children are counting down the days and we could not be more excited. Honestly, our Halloween traditions haven’t changed at all since Nate’s diagnosis. We trick-or-treat until their little hearts are content and then head home to pass out most of the candy we just received to all of the trick-or-treaters who come to our door. We also save some to treat low blood sugars and I usually stash some away for me in case of a mommy chocolate emergency! Don’t get me wrong, we eat plenty of candy along the way, but we always get so much there is no possible way that we could eat it all. The girls have always been allowed to eat their candy in moderation and I’ve seen no reason to make any changes here for Nate. All of that to say Halloween is not a huge issue with our family. I sweat a lot of things but Halloween I can handle. Everything in moderation and we’ll be just fine.
Laura Houston is the mother of three children. Her son Nate was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September of 2009 at the age of 14-months and her daughter, Sophie was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in June of 2010 at the age of 4-years old. Laura blogs about both at Houston We Have A Problem. She loves connecting with other parents living with T1D and UC through her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. You can find Laura on Facebook and on Twitter.
The first Halloween after our daughter’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes wasn’t too much different than previous years because we had always limited her candy consumption. But the added pressure was on counting carbs at the many Halloween parties and events we attend each year. We wanted her to still be a kid and enjoy the festivities, but we needed to balance that with the insulin that she needed to partake in “sometimes” foods.
I definitely take the “let her be a kid” approach with Halloween. The trick (pun intended) is to plan ahead so that the treats don’t cause spooky blood sugars. For about a week after Halloween I let her have a piece of candy with dinner and maybe pop a small piece into her lunchbox. I have found that candy, when eaten with healthier foods, doesn’t cause as much of a spike as when eaten alone. On Halloween night, I let her have a piece of candy or two with a glass of milk as her bedtime snack and bolus for the carbs.
When she was on multiple daily injections, having a candy snack outside of normal meal or snack times meant that she needed an extra injection. That’s my tip for children who are on MDI: eat the candy with a meal so that the treat doesn’t mean yet another reminder that the child has diabetes.
Some of the candy we get can be used for treating lows such as Smarties, which have six grams of carb per roll, and Skittles. Did you know that the first ingredient in Smarties is dextrose which is also the first ingredient in glucose tablets?
It seems my daughter has a low blood sugar while trick-or-treating each year because of all the walking, running, and excitement. The first year this happened she asked if she could have a piece of candy from her bag to treat it. I let her have a small Hershey’s chocolate bar not realizing at the time that the fat in chocolate can actually slow down the carbs. Now I know to let her have either something from our usual arsenal (juice or glucose tabs) or something with simple sugar like the Smarties.
For years we have been handing out non-candy trinkets such as bouncy balls that look like eyeballs, spider rings, pencils, and tattoos. I find this helps to take a little of the focus off of the candy and other parents appreciate it too. Another way to take the focus off of the candy is to swap their stash for a small toy such as a Halloween-themed My Little Pony, Littlest Petshop, Legos, or Hot Wheels. These can often be found for around $5 in the Halloween aisle.
My best advice is to take the focus off of the candy while still allowing kids to have fun and fully participate in Halloween activities. Let them have candy, but try to incorporate it into the meal and allow only a piece or two instead of gorging on the entire bag.
When Leighann Calentine’s daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three, she began sharing their story on D-Mom Blog. Leighann says that like others dealing with diabetes, she and her husband count carbs, carry juice boxes, and are always on call. She shares how they manage their daughter’s diabetes, first with injections and now with an insulin pump, navigate playing several sports, and tackle sending her to public school, all while making sure that Q is a child first and that diabetes is second. You can read more of her writing about Halloween at D-Mom Blog.
Halloween With Diabetes and Celiac Disease
If Halloween fun is something your family looks forward to every year, then do not fear. I’m pleased to report that Halloween with diabetes and celiac is completely doable, my friends! It seems the cookie decorating season starts in October, and continues through Valentine’s Day. To be prepared, I keep a batch of gluten free sugar cookie dough in the freezer. Just pull off a clump, roll out, cut, and bake. With the help of an assortment of cookie cutters, we’re ready whenever a cookie celebration pops up! Pumpkins, ghosts, trees, or hearts… pick your pleasure, and join the fun. Frosting and candies can be pre-measured to ease carb counting, especially if your child will be away from you during the decorating frenzy.
We also love dressing up in costumes, and joining our neighbors for trick-or- treating. At the end of the evening, all the candy gets dumped into one big pile, and everyone gets to pick out ten favorites. The rest of it gets bagged up and traded for a $10 spending limit in the toy/book/music aisle at our favorite store. This is the game plan for all three Rose Girls, and it works really well for our family. Here is an awesome 2011 list of gluten free candies for your reference. You might be surprised to learn just how much gluten free candy is out there. Now go make some memories, and have fun!
Wendy Rose was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009. Her oldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2005, and celiac disease in 2008. Candy Hearts Blog documents their family’s journey with both conditions. It’s a sweet adventure full of gluten-free goodies.
My daughter Grace says, “Go trick-or-treating with your friends, and collect all the candy you want. More is always better! And, yes I can eat that!”
Penny Starr-Ashton, blogger at ASweetGrace.blogspot.com and mom to nine-year-old Grace, a type 1 diabetic, candy lover and Justin Bieber aficionado.
Check out our list of Eight Halloween Treats for Kids That Aren’t Candy.
Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of ASweetLife. She writes the blog The Natural Diabetic.
*This article was originally published on October 2011.