Let’s face it: holidays are usually a challenge for the type 1 community, as food is almost always at the center of our celebrations. But if there is anything more challenging than trick-or-treating on Halloween for a T1 kid and his or her parents, I haven’t yet come across it yet! Those treats are tricky on the blood sugar—but what can you do? No parent wants their child to miss out on the fun that other kids enjoy, but at the same time, it’s tough to manage diabetes with all that candy coming in the door.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from other people with T1D and their parents on how to enjoy Halloween with your little ghouls and goblins, and not spooked by high-carb treats:
- Portion control: Come up with a plan for how many pieces of candy will be kept. Allow a certain number of pieces to be eaten during or after trick-or-treating, account for them accordingly, and then dispose of the rest. (Or if you’re like my husband, hide them in the hall closet and eat one piece a day for the next two months!) Here’s a comprehensive list of carb counts for common Halloween candies, courtesy of the ADA.
- Barter: Offer non-candy items in exchange for some of the loot. Most kids can be tempted by toys or special experiences, like dinner out or a trip to a local museum or attraction.
- Send the Halloween Fairy: Even before my son’s diagnosis, we had a visit from the Halloween fairy on Halloween night. The Halloween fairy comes and takes whatever candy you leave under your pillow, and replaces it with a special toy. We told our three kids about the Halloween fairy, and said that if they wanted her to visit, they had to write her a letter and invite her. (That way, the candy isn’t taken without their prior knowledge.)
- Create a Candy Shop: For school-aged kids, cash is king! Set a certain price for various pieces of candy, and let them set up a store for others to visit. They eat less candy, earn some spending money and practice their math skills.
- Account for Exercise: Remember, trick-or-treating isn’t just about the candy—it’s also quite a workout, walking all over the neighborhood with your friends and families. Eating a small piece of candy here and there may actually be good for keeping blood sugars up during all that activity.
- Let them indulge: Allow your child to enjoy their Halloween treats, and just plan to cover them with the appropriate amount of insulin. Remember that certain kinds of candy are higher in carbs than others, and that blood sugars may be affected by adrenaline, excitement, the exercise associated with walking all over the neighborhood and lag times of high sugar foods.
- If your T1 child has siblings, include them in the same plan. Singling one out for having diabetes will surely cause resentment and frustration, which is no fun for anyone.
As with everything, living with type 1 means having to plan. As long as you choose one of these or another method of dealing with this special day and all the sugar that comes with it, you and your child can enjoy Halloween just like everyone else. Boo!