Since candy is high in sugar (and sometimes fat) but devoid of most other nutrients, this can be a good approach for siblings without diabetes, too. Kevin McMahon, president of diabetes technology company Diabetech, has two daughters, one with diabetes and one without. After trick-or-treating, both girls choose a handful of their favorite sweets and then barter the remaining candy for a special prize such as a trip to the zoo. According to McMahon, “The girls don’t seem to mind, and they’ve bought into the fact that sweets aren’t the best choice anyway, whether you have diabetes or not.”
The use of carbohydrate counting should make it possible to incorporate occasional treats into your child’s meal plan with just a little extra planning. One option is to serve the candy instead of another carbohydrate-containing food, so the total amount of carbohydrate in the meal stays the same. (Consuming consistent amounts of carbohydrate from one day to the next can help with overall blood glucose control.) A second option is to adjust the premeal insulin dose according to how much carbohydrate will be eaten.
According to certified diabetes educator Gary Scheiner, if you opt to let your child have part of his candy haul, “you can manage blood glucose levels if you administer the right amounts of insulin at the right times. There is nothing about having diabetes per se that should force kids to not eat things that their peers are eating.”
Eating some candy can even be a good opportunity for teaching your child to take a more independent role in his diabetes management. According to Stephen Ponder, a physician and certified diabetes educator with Type 1 diabetes, partaking of the spoils of trick-or-treating “can be an opportunity for kids to learn some practical aspects of carbohydrate counting.” He added, however, that candy should not be a dietary staple, and he supported the idea of keeping a few pieces of Halloween candy to work into a child’s meal plan and throwing out the rest.
Dietitian Amy Campbell says that the trick to incorporating treats into your child’s diabetes meal plan is to know how much carbohydrate is in the candy and how much carbohydrate your child is allotted for a meal or snack. Because the nutrition information for snack-size candies is rarely printed on each individual candy, children can make a game of finding out how much carbohydrate each treat contains and labeling each accordingly (with masking tape or a small sticker). Company Web sites generally contain either product nutrition information or a phone number to contact customer service.
Parents of children who have celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats) may also need to call companies to confirm whether candy is gluten free or encourage older children to start learning how to collect this information. Nutrition information for common snack-size candy, including select candy that does not contain gluten can be found in “Halloween Treats.”
Bear in mind that the spoils of trick-or-treating should not be made available for continuous snacking. As noted by Scheiner, “‘Grazing’ tends to produce a prolonged post-meal high since the meal is virtually nonstop.” Instead, a piece or two of candy should be incorporated as dessert after a meal or as a snack, which can be covered by a bolus of insulin. For kids who don’t use an insulin pump, including treats in a meal or a regularly scheduled snack also limits the number of extra injections that may be needed to cover candy eaten at other times.