It’s that time of year again: Jack-o-lanterns decorate front porches, the air is crisp and cool, and creepy costumes line storefront windows. Halloween can be a scary time for different reasons — especially considering about 4 percent of all candy consumed in the U.S. is eaten on that single day, according to USA Today. While no one wants their child to overindulge, parents who have a kid with diabetes might be extra concerned this Halloween.
Approximately 90 percent of all diabetes cases are Type 2, in which the body develops a resistance to insulin and no longer uses it properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas slowly loses its ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the last two decades, Type 2 diabetes has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency. On the other hand, Type 1 Diabetes develops when the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic cells that make the insulin. This type accounts for about 10 percent of all cases.
Those with either type of diabetes must keep a healthy diet, stay physically active and monitor their blood glucose levels in order to maintain a regular lifestyle. The bottom line is, too much candy can cause blood sugar levels to rise, which can be dangerous for diabetics. Luckily, there are still ways for your diabetic to savor the sweetness of Halloween with a little planning.
For instance, it’s still safe for most diabetics to eat some candy, as long as you keep in mind the carbohydrate count, which can spike blood sugar levels. Fun-size candy is always a better choice than a full-size serving, but it’s important to choose wisely.
A snack-size Kit Kat bar, for instance, 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. Choosing long-lasting hard candies with less sugar won’t do as much harm to blood sugar levels, as well. Three pieces of Jolly Rancher hard candies have 7 grams of sugar, while one fun-size bag of Skittles can contain more than double that amount.
Candy typically does not contain fiber, which can help slowly release sugar into the bloodstream, therefore reducing blood sugar spikes. However, some candy does contain protein, which can act in the same manner. Thus, opting for chocolate-covered peanuts or a fun-sized Snickers bar would be a better choice than a plain milk chocolate Hershey’s bar.
It’s important to note that for kids with Type 1 diabetes, candy must be balanced with extra insulin. For those with Type 2 diabetes who might be on a specific meal plan, talk to your child’s doctor to learn how a few pieces of candy can fit into their diet.
Long walks during Halloween night can also affect blood glucose levels for diabetics, so packing a healthy snack for them is another helpful trick. This might prevent them from dipping into their bag for a treat and ensures a healthier solution if their blood sugar level begins to drop.
After trick-or-treat is over, it may be helpful to sit down with your child and organize their candy stash. Ask them to pick out their favorite candies, and then trade in the rest for something non-food related. Kids might be willing to give up a few treats for a fun family outing, book, video or new toy.
If it’s too tough to manage the carbs in candies, come up with creative alternatives. Take the emphasis off sugar and get into the spirit. I encourage families to create rituals to celebrate Halloween that include pumpkin carving, hay rides, designing homemade costumes and bobbing for apples, so everyone can join in on the festivities. Much of the excitement that comes with the holiday stems from the anticipation and preparation, so make this the focus instead. Since candy is high in sugar and lacks most other nutrients anyway, this can be a good approach for any family, even for those without a diabetic.
Halloween should be a fun time for every child. With a little planning, we can ensure a healthier and safer trick-or-treat night, while still enjoying the sweetness of the holiday.
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