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The Trick to Treats

November 13, 2009
10/28/2009 Though children with diabetes need to plan ahead for Halloween festivities and candy, experts say "nothing is off limits" when it comes to celebrating the holiday. Colorado Hometown Newspapers/Doug Pike The trick to treats For diabetic children, planning is the key to navigating Halloween festivities By Kimberli Turner Colorado Hometown Newspapers As Halloween approaches, many children are getting excited to make their rounds, collecting as much candy as they can stuff into their pillowcases. But for families with diabetic children, this time of year means worrying about what or how much they eat and whether there will be things they can snack on at holiday parties. Debby Johnson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for Fit4D — a personalized online diabetes coaching service — compiled tips that allow diabetic children to have a fun and safe Halloween. Johnson said she feels that planning ahead is key for a child with diabetes. She suggests that if a child is invited to a Halloween party, parents should call ahead to find out the time and menu — this allows for the parent to properly plan the day’s meal and medication adjustments. Johnson also said it is important for parents to know how many carbohydrates are in each piece of candy, to appropriately include the totals into the child’s meal plan. Her tips suggest reviewing nutrition labels at the store or utilizing online nutrition guides such as www.calorieking.com. “Planning ahead allows for better blood sugar control,” Johnson said. “Nothing is off-limits with diabetes, you just have to plan a little more.” Teri Froelich, a registered dietitian at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center, said having strategies and talking about the situation with the child is important. Froelich suggests that parents bring a special dish for their child if they are going to a party, and it’s important “knowing ahead of time, having that plan in place,” she said. Froelich said parents need to explain to children who have diabetes that although there will be temptation for candy and caramel apples, they need to grasp the reality that it is an unhealthy situation. “The main thing is to focus on the aspects of Halloween that aren’t candy,” Froelich said. She suggests parents put emphasis on the costumes, carnivals and pumpkin carving. Another tip Johnson advocates is allowing children to choose a piece of non-chocolate candy from their bag equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate, if they experience low blood glucose. Because chocolate has added fat it slows down the digestion of carbohydrates. If the child comes home with a lot of candy, Johnson suggested allowing the child to swap so many pieces for a non-food item such as a stuffed animal or music downloads. Going along with that, Froelich felt it would be a good idea for family members to hand out diabetic-friendly snack or items at the door, and make sure there is enough left over for the diabetic child to swap. Alternatives she cited included sugar-free gum, granola bars and 100-calorie snack packs. “The basic principal ... is actually how all of us should be eating,” Froelich said. “They are setting up good habits for a lifetime.” All children can have candy, but no one needs to over-indulge, she said. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------