Trick or treat, trick or treat, give me something good to eat! We all remember that saying when we were kids. Americans will spend a spooktakular $2.1 billion on Halloween candy this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That is a frightening number, especially when tallying the amount of sugar in all of that candy.
Halloween is supposed to be fun and exciting for both children and adults, and it DOES NOT have to be a scary and overwhelming time for people with diabetes and their family members. Below are some tips on enjoying a diabetes-friendly Halloween for adults and children.
- Instead of giving out candy and having that tempting bowl by your front door, purchase Halloween erasers, pencils, stickers, plastic jewelry, mini toys and glow sticks to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Mini pretzel and popcorn bags or granola bars are healthier choices as well.
- Shift the focus, and don’t make Halloween all about candy. Incorporate decorating the home, Halloween crafts, pumpkin painting and carving and activities such as haunted hay rides, haunted houses, bobbing for apples and Halloween walks into your family’s celebration.
- Spend time in the kitchen instead of the candy aisle. Make festive treats, such as toasted pumpkin seeds (rich in protein and potassium), popcorn balls or a Chex mix, fresh-cut fruit or sugar free jello/pudding.
- If you do purchase candy, select types that you and/or your family members do not like so you won’t be tempted.
- When your trick-or-treaters comes home candy-laden, have them spread their loot on a table or floor, then have them select only their favorite treats to keep. Donate un-wanted/excess candy to a local children’s hospital, food pantry or senior center.
- Store some of the candy to use as treatment for hypoglycemia. Jelly beans, hard candy and Smarties are candies that are fast acting carbohydrates and great for addressing blood sugar lows. Portion these in snack size baggies in 15g carbohydrate portions so they are readily available. Avoid using chocolate candy to treat low blood sugar (fat content can make it less fast-acting).
- Choose fun-size candy instead of full-size candy bars when having a treat, as these are lower in carbohydrates. Build the treat into you or your child’s meal plan so fiber, protein and fat will help slow the digestion and breakdown of the candy. Try to choose candy that incorporates nuts as these will often be lower in carbohydrates and contain some healthy fats. Avoid making Halloween an ongoing candy meal, and avoid candy as a between-meal snack.
- Trick-or-treating typically involves walking for longer periods of time. This increase in physical activity could result in low blood sugar, especially for small children. Pack a nutritious snack to bring along to prevent hypoglycemia (such as apple slices and peanut butter) and always bring a fast-acting 15-gram carbohydrate source such as glucose tablets or 4 ounces of juice.
- If you consume sugar-free products, there are plenty of sugar-free candies on the market to substitute for regular candy. If you are not in favor of sugar free products, having a mini, fun size, portion of the real thing as a treat is perfectly fine.
- Don’t forget about the benefits of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonols which have antioxidant properties. Foods rich in antioxidants can help protect bodily cells from damage.
For a comprehensive list of carbohydrate counts in common candy items, view the American Diabetes Association’s “Carbohydrate Content of Popular Halloween Treats”.
By Erin Brasch, MS RD LD, Diabetes Treatment Center, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital