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Managing Diabetes at Halloween: Balance is the Key

separator Every family with a child who has diabetes handles Halloween in its own way, but probably everyone would agree that the most important thing is to be creative and flexible. Parents play an important role during Halloween, and it can be a real balancing act. For some parents, it may seem that being very strict with your child and not allowing any candy at all is the safest way to go. But it might be a little easier on everyone, including you, if you allow your child to have one or two pieces of candy, and make sure to adjust the insulin if you need to.

Candy doesn’t have to be forbidden
If you keep balance as your main theme at Halloween, you’ll help your family stay on a healthy track without being too strict. Candy alone is not the main problem. It’s eating too much of it that’s the danger, because candy has a higher carbohydrate count than many other foods. But if you think about it, candy can be included in a meal, as long as you count the carbs and adjust the rest of the meal accordingly. For example, you can get 15 grams of carbohydrate from 3 small Tootsie rolls, or 3 twizzlers or a half package of M&M’s plain or peanut candies. A half cup of potatoes has 15 grams of carbohydrate as well, so you can see that it’s not the candy you have to watch out for as much as the carbs.

Having other, non-diabetic children in your family can make things a little more difficult. You don't want your diabetic child to be limited to one or two pieces of candy while the other kids eat a lot of it. That would make almost any diabetic child feel left out, which could cause anger, fighting and hurt feelings.

The best policy for Halloween is probably to make sure that all the kids in the family limit their candy. That way, nobody is singled out. And the candy will last longer too!

Another option is to save some candy for your children and to donate the rest to homeless shelters or hospitals. You can also have a party at your house on Halloween and focus on games and arts and crafts instead of candy. That way, your child will associate Halloween with activities that are a lot of fun.

Ask your healthcare team for advice
Your healthcare team can tell you about programs in your area that allow children with diabetes to trade their candy in for gift certificates or movie passes.

As your diabetic child gets a little older, things become a little more complicated. Children who have been following their diabetes care plan successfully and responsibly for years may become less disciplined as they approach adolescence.

Be aware that older children may not have good judgment about how much candy they should eat. And be sure to ask your health care team for advice about handling Halloween for children of all ages.

But most important of all, remember that Halloween can still be a lot of fun for your whole family!

Diabetes Tips: A Few Simple Ways to Prevent Type 2 in Kids
There’s no good way to put this: American’s children weigh more than they ever have, and for the first time, they’re developing type 2 diabetes. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine has shown that about 4 percent of American teenagers have developed what’s called “metabolic syndrome,” which is an early warning sign that health problems, including diabetes, are more likely to develop. 

In the study, 30 percent of the teens who were overweight had metabolic syndrome. And teens who have the syndrome are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease.

Eating too much and getting too little activity are the main reasons. Diabetes isn’t a disease anybody wants to get. But it’s especially dangerous for kids, because the longer you have it, the greater the chances you’ll develop the long-term complications, like loss of a leg, kidney disease, heart disease and eye disease that can lead to blindness.

The very good news is that in many cases, diabetes can be stopped before it even starts. As usual, losing weight and getting regular exercise are the keys to better health for teens.

What can parents and kids do to prevent type 2 diabetes? Here are some suggestions:
Strictly limit soda. And we do mean strictly. Kids sometimes drink soda for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. That’s a lot of calories and a lot of sugar. Way too much. Instead of soda at meals, have milk or water. Don’t forget that a lot of teens who drink soda all the time may not be getting enough calcium to build healthy bones. Milk is a good source of calcium. Think of soda as a treat, maybe a once-a-week splurge.

Avoid fast food places. This can be hard if you’ve developed the habit. But it’s almost impossible to go to a fast food restaurant without eating too much. The fries taste great, the super-size sodas are irresistible and the big burgers are more appealing than the small ones. Don’t go there!

Avoid many common snacks. It’s a painful reality, but potato chips, corn chips and tortilla chips are loaded with calories and unhealthy kinds of fat. Potato chips at breakfast, lunch and after school will help a kid reach obesity in no time. Small servings of pretzels and lower-fat popcorn are healthier snack choices.

Limit dessert, and keep portions small. You can really do a lot of damage just from desserts. For example, a Ben and Jerry’s empty waffle cone dipped in chocolate has as many calories as a half pound rack of barbecue baby back ribs. And that’s before you put any ice cream in. Add one scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream, and you get 820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat. So then it’s as much as a one-pound rack of baby ribs.

Here’s another example: The TCBY Toffee Coffee Cappuccino Chiller has the same calories and saturated fat as two pork chops, a Caesar salad and a baked potato with butter.

Replace television (and computer) time with other activities. Kids who can’t stare at a screen all the time will have to do something that requires more activity. 

It’s simple, but not necessarily easy. If you want to help kids avoid getting diabetes, make sure they don’t eat too much and encourage them to be active. Strict rules about food and activity are important. And probably the most important thing is to have the entire family involved. Everybody needs to eat well and exercise, even family members who aren’t overweight.

Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, August 2003; Center for Science in the Public Interest.
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