Halloween can be a treat, even with diabetes

The sugar frenzy that accompanies the entire Halloween season is enough for any parent to sigh. But for parents with a diabetic child, Halloween can be worrisome. Treats abound the entire month of October culminating in the big day of trick-or-treating.

Inez Lane remembers her daughter, Jordan’s, Halloween just weeks after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2005. At the time, Jordan was in the third grade.

“We were very careful the first Halloween. We paid her 25 cents for each piece of candy,” said Lane. They allowed her to have a just a few pieces that year.

“Now we are more comfortable with the situation. We still pay her, but let her keep a small bagful. She’s allowed one piece a day or every other day.”

Diabetes experts generally agree that diabetic children can enjoy some of their loot as long as they balance it with the proper dose of insulin.

“As long as it is worked into a meal plan and covered by the child’s insulin, sugar is allowed,” explains Lela Iliopoulos, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

She says this is where carbohydrate counting skills are used.

“After eating treats, you can check blood glucose levels and make any insulin adjustments, if needed.” Iliopoulos, who is the diabetes program coordinator at Palos Community Hospital in suburban Chicago, recommends looking up the candy’s carbohydrate content ahead of time, if possible.

Other kids

It can be a challenge when there are siblings without diabetes.

“Instead of focusing on diabetes, shift it to overall health by setting the same guidelines for all the kids and the entire family,” suggests Iliopoulos. “Do not single out the diabetic child or treat him or her any differently than the other children — because then he or she will feel different.”

For example, each member of the family can select two pieces of candy as a treat.

Try to avoid putting a negative emphasis on eating candy. Instead, focus on moderation and teaching your kids how to fit treats into a healthy balanced diet for special occasions.


If you are the one hosting the party, you will definitely have more control over the situation. Incorporate fun games to take the emphasis off candy consumption. Costume contests, pumpkin carving, crafts, face painting and spooky storytelling are classic party fare.

Offer healthier alternatives, such as homemade popcorn balls, apple slices with just a bit of caramel, nuts, sandwiches shaped into Halloween shapes with a cookie cutter, or homemade cookies that are made with a little less sugar. Toys and other non-candy prizes such as colorful pencils, stickers, erasers or coins are also a hit.

Other candy tips

• Set a few rules like “no candy eating during the hunt” to minimize the amount of sugary foods eaten.

• Limit the number of houses at which your children can trick-or-treat.

• Agree on a candy allowance ahead of time with your children. Have him pick out a few candies at a time and put the rest away.

• Swap the candy for money to purchase books or toys. Or have them trade you their candy for cash to buy something they have been saving up for. This will last longer than a piece of candy.

• If your child is diabetic, after the holiday, save the haul and allow a piece of candy each day that has been worked into the meal plan.

• Keep a stash of treats to treat low blood sugar levels.

• • •

Like anyone else, children with diabetes should be allowed to enjoy Halloween, as it only comes once a year.

Lane says her daughter, who is a competitive gymnast, truly enjoys Halloween.

“Now she trick-or-treats by herself. I really put her diabetes care in her hands and put a lot of faith in her. She has done it very well. She rarely gets low. She knows her own body.”

Resource: Carbohydrate content of popular Halloween treats (http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/youth/ada-halloween-candy-list.pdf)

Christine M. Palumbo is a Naperville, Illinois-based registered dietitian and mother of three who will be relieved when Halloween is over. She can be reached at (630) 369-8495 or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.

No-Bake Classic Snack Mix

Makes 14 servings. Prep Time: 10 min. Total Time: 13 min.


3 cups Post Original Shredded Wheat Spoon Size Cereal

2 cups popped popcorn

1 cup small pretzels

1/2 cup peanuts

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

INSTRUCTIONS: Toss cereal with popped popcorn, small pretzels and peanuts in large microwavable bowl.

Mix melted butter or margarine, Worcestershire sauce and seasoned salt until well blended. Drizzle evenly over cereal mixture; toss to coat. Microwave on high two to three min. until cereal is crisp, stirring after two min.

NUTRITION FACTS: 110 calories, 6 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 190 milligrams sodium, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams protein. Diet Exchange: 1 Starch 1 Fat

Recipe courtesy of www.postcereal.com