The month of October is well underway, and soon we will be celebrating fall’s spookiest event: Halloween, or as many families see it, a time for candy, chips and chocolate!
But parents with children who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D) might see it as the perfect recipe for a glycemic rollercoaster.
Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure a fun and safe Halloween for all.
Minimizing impact on blood sugar: yes, it’s possible!
If you and your child want to go trick-or-treating, you should absolutely do it! To minimize the risk of hypoglycemia while you’re out and about, plan to serve a balanced meal—including carbs, protein and fats—before heading out. Make sure to regularly check your child’s blood sugar levels while you’re out, and keep snacks on hand (this could be a combination of candy and protein, such as nuts or cheese). Depending on how long you plan on staying out, you can use the same strategies as you would before, during and after physical activity.
Once you’re back home, you will need to manage the amount of candy eaten and its impact on blood sugar levels on that evening and over the following days. Most types of candy (e.g., jujubes, lollipops, bubble-gum) are primarily made with quick-acting sugar, which means that they raise blood sugar levels more quickly than complex carbs or fibre. There’s usually a gap between the time when the insulin starts acting and the time when blood sugar levels increase. This means that carbs hit the bloodstream before the insulin does, causing hyperglycemia, and the insulin reaches its peak action once the carbs are already absorbed, causing hypoglycemia.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Have your child pick a few pieces of candy they will be allowed to eat as a snack in the evening along with a source of protein.
- Ask your child to select and set aside a few pieces of candy they will be able to use to treat hypoglycemia over the next few weeks. Make sure that they pick only fast-acting carbs (i.e., no chips or chocolate) and that each serving does not exceed the usually recommended 15 grams of carbs to treat one hypoglycemic episode.
- To minimize blood sugar fluctuations, candy should be consumed after a meal. Decide in advance what pieces of candy your child will be allowed to have for dessert, so you can plan for it when calculating their bolus for the meal.
Once the celebration is over, you should store the candy in a closed cupboard to minimize cravings and slowly go back to your usual diet.
Here is a list of certain types of sweets and candy and their nutrient value. If you cannot find what you’re looking for in this list, you can try a search on the Internet.
Alternative ways to celebrate
Although the traditional way to celebrate Halloween is to go trick-or-treating and eat candy, you should consider setting family traditions that do not revolve around candy. Here are few examples of fun Halloween-themed activities that don’t involve candy:
- watching Halloween movies;
- picking, decorating and perhaps cooking a pumpkin;
- putting on costumes and make-up, and taking pictures;
- preparing goody bags that include non-food items (e.g., temporary tattoos, stickers, markers).
Let your creativity guide you!
These are only tips to minimize the impact of candy on blood sugar levels; you’re in a better position to know what will work for your child. In any case, it is normal for your child to eat more candy than usual at Halloween. By focusing on strategies to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia rather than the negative aspects, you will help your children to develop a healthy relationship with food. Keep in mind that Halloween is a special occasion and that it should remain a positive experience for your child and the rest of your family.
- Follow these tips for a safe and fun halloween. DiabetesCanadaWebsite. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.diabetes.ca/media-room/news/follow-these-tips-for-a-safe-and-fun-halloween.