Halloween: A Survival Guide for Parents

trickortreaters2With just a few tricks in mind, Halloween can still be a treat for children with type 1 diabetes. While children across the nation are going to parties, running from door to door, and eating chocolates and candy by the bagful, there are ways that Halloween can still be fun for children who don’t have the traditional treats in their diet.

Dr. Aaron Kowalski, Scientific Program Manager for JDRF, was diagnosed with type 1 as a child, as was his brother. He grew up having to deal with Halloween envy. “It’s hard to watch other kids tear into sacks of candy, but with a little pre-planning, our parents managed to make the holiday more fun for us,” he said. Our parents made the neighbors aware of our situation, and they in turn made sure to have healthy alternatives on hand and some even gave us coins instead of candy. We never knew the difference, and it saved us from feeling different from our friends.”

By the time they’re going trick-or-treating or being invited to Halloween parties, children with type 1 generally know what they can’t eat and why. What’s important is to exchange the sugar shock for something just as good–or better. Here are some ideas to help make sure there on no real scares during the holiday.

  • Trade candy for cash or toys. Chef Michel Nischan has two sons with type 1 diabetes, and he says that a little candy on Halloween is OK, but suggests that most of their treats be exchanged for a toy or something they really want. “Parents can also buy back the collected candy with a coin for each piece,” he says, adding that “older kids may appreciate their parents making a contribution to a worthy charity like JDRF or to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.”
  • Plan alternative activities and treats. Host a Halloween party and offer things like glow-in-the-dark insects, Halloween-themed stickers, and cause-related wristbands as treats. Popcorn balls and sugar-free candy and other sugar-free treats can replace the usual sweets. By placing the focus on fun and not food, the holiday can be better and healthier for everyone involved.
  • Inform teachers and health care officials at your child’s school. Prepare your child as well as faculty and staff with information about type 1 diabetes before Halloween events begin. The holiday can be an opportunity to teach about health, science, and diet. Some schools have used Halloween as an occasion to calculate the carbohydrate counts for varied serving sizes of sweets before classroom parties.
  • Take inventory. If you are going to allow your child to eat candy, be sure to have them pick out only a few pieces at a time and eat them according to a supervised schedule.

Carbohydrate Values for Common Candies*

Candy                Size/Package                Carbs (g)
3 Musketeers     16 gram fun size bar      12g
3 Musketeers      2.13 oz bar                     46g
Baby Ruth           2 oz. bar                         37g
Baby Ruth           1 fun size                       17g
Blow Pop            1 lollipop                          13g
Butterfinger         2 oz. bar                         41g
Butterfinger         22 gram fun size bar     15g
Candy corn         15 pieces                       15g
Dum Dums         1 lollipop                         5g
Gummy Bears    11 pieces                        30g
Heath Bar            1.4 oz. bar                      25g
Hershey’s Almond  3 minis                        15g
Hershey’s Almond  1.45oz. bar                  20g
Hershey’s Kisses  6 pieces                       16g
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar snack size  10g
Jolly Rancher       1 piece                            6g
Kit Kat bar            3 piece bar                     10g
KitKat                    1.5 oz. package             26g
Licorice                 3 6-inch Twizzlers         15g
M&M’s, plain          mini pack                       15g
M&M’s, plain          1.69 oz bag                    34g
M&M’s, peanut       mini pack                       13g
M&M’s, peanut       1.74 oz bag                   30g
M&M’s, peanut butter 1.69 oz bag               27g
Milky Way               2.15 oz bar                   43g
Milky Way               fun size bar                   14g
Nestle’s Cruch       1.5 oz                            28g
Nestle’s Crunch      4 mini bars                   26g
Reese’s Cups         2 1-oz cups                 18g
Reese’s mini cups  4 1-oz mini cups          16g
Skittles                     15 pieces                     15g
Skittles                     mini pack                     17.5g
Snicker’s                  fun size                        12g
Snickers                   2.07 oz. bar                  36g
Snickers                   20-gram fun size          12g
Starburst                  4 pieces                        16g
Sweet Tarts              mini packs – 5 packs     13g
Tootsie Pop              1 pop                             16g
Tootsie Roll               midgets 12                    30g
Tootsie Rolls             2 bars                            23g
Twix                           2 2-oz. cookies             37g
Warheads                  5 pieces                       13g
Whoopers                  8 Pieces                       15g
Whoppers                 1 small pouch                16g
Wonka Pixie Stix        1 6-inch stick                 2g

* From Children with Diabetes (www.childrenwithdiabetes.com)